While Westminster College graduate Leslie Ann Workman marched triumphantly to snatch her newly acquired diploma Saturday morning, a voice (sounding suspiciously fatherly) rose from the crowd: "It's about time, Leslie."
At the Salt Lake private college's 114th commencement ceremonies, Business Week publisher John W. Patten received an honorary doctorate before delivering the commencement speech. Also receiving an honorary doctorate degree was Robert F. Weyher Sr., chairman of the college's governing body during difficult financial times in Westminster's history.Patten encouraged graduates to take advantage of the opportunities they face and challenged them to look to the international marketplace.
Patten told graduates they may have passed many examinations to earn their degrees, but they are not through with tests.
"You'll be taking them throughout your career, but in the future you will only be graded two ways - by success or failure," he said. "To ensure success you must grab every opportunity which comes your way. Never be embarrassed to ask questions or put forth new ideas. Always learn everything you can about your business."
Saturday's sunny, cloud-strewn skies made a perfect Graduation Day backdrop to praise the 275 members of the class of 1989, Westminster's largest ever. A crowd of friends and loved ones looked on during the casual outdoor ceremony, acknowledging graduates' accomplishments with cheers and friendly personalized shouts. Some of the cap-and-gowned graduates belied the solemnity of their dress by playing to the crowd, exhibiting their diplomas with raised arms in a victory symbol.
For graduates at every level this graduation season, books and papers have been traded for the camera-and-camcorder-tradition of commencement ceremonies. Festive purple and gold flags livened Westminster's Dane Hansen Memorial Stadium field. After a recessional by the Salt Lake Scots Bag Pipe Band, graduates entertained the congratulations of supporters.
Patten said corporate America needs to adapt to face the next decade of changes in the world marketplace. Europe becoming a single, unified market in 1992, and Great Britain's return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 will change the shape of the business world forever.
America's corporations are changing by offering stock-ownership programs to employees, by hiring more women and by watching the continuing move toward leveraged buyouts. "In the next decade, you graduates will be the ones to implement and regulate these new concepts and prove their validity."
Company size will be an issue of the 1990s, with small companies emerging as the engine of the U.S. economy. Innovative entrepreneurs have become America's latest folk heroes, and large companies are beginning to behave like smaller companies.
But before corporate America moves forward, it must promote women into the top management ranks. Now only 2 percent of the corporate officers at major public companies are women.
"This is an inequity your generation will have to correct in order for America to successfully compete in the global economy," Patten said.
He said America isn't out of the world business picture yet. This country is still the world's largest producer, its share of global output is twice that of Japan, and experts predict that the level will hold over the next 20 years.
"America is the free enterprise model, and free enterprise is catching on - as recent events in China and the Soviet Union have dramatically demonstrated," Patten said. "The power America has in the world is more than just economic, it is ideological, cultural and political as well. The American dream and all it stands for still catches the imagination of people around the world."