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DR. DON LEISEY'S REMARKS TO MID-YEAR GRADUATES AT
WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY DECEMBER 18, 2011

Continued

I am very proud that I am an alumnus of this great university and in a few minutes you will hold the same esteem as members of the alumni. It behooves all of us to give generously to the annual fund so that future students will have an opportunity to gain a world class education. We have to make certain that WCU continues to have the best faculty, facilities and technology in the future.

Obtaining a bachelors degree requires the support of many people over the years. Remember you are who you are, and you are where you are because of these people. My hope is that you take time in the next few weeks and develop a list of all those people and thank them for their support in assisting you to get to where you are today.

Like some of you, I arrived at West Chester as a 17 year old undisciplined and immature kid from a small rural town, Honey Brook. Thanks to very patient and supportive faculty and friends, West Chester served as the catalyst and launching pad, for a very exciting and wonderful career as an educator and educational entrepreneur.

I began teaching not too far from here, at the East Fallowfie1d School outside of Coatesville. After teaching for three years and attaining a masters degree, I was appointed principal of Beaver Creek School in Downingtown where I served for two years before accepting a principalship with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools educating children of United States military personnel stationed in Japan.

My bachelor's degree from West Chester allowed me to work with many talented and creative people throughout my career. It also helped me to obtain a masters degree from Villanova, a certificate in school business administration and a doctorate from the University of Southern California. It gave me the opportunity to practice my profession as an educator at at levels of education from preschool through graduate school and serve as an educator in two states, Pennsylvania and California, and a foreign country, Japan, including serving as Superintendent of a large city school district, San Rafael City Schools, in Marin County, California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco as well as being the founder of a large private school organization, Merryhill-Country Schools, which I sold to Nobel Learning Communities in 1989, headquartered here in West Chester. It ultimately gave me the tools to become an educational entrepreneur starting five companies related to education. The history, geography, art and music classes I took at West Chester gave me a great desire to travel the world some day. Fortunately my retirement years have given me the opportunity to travel to more than 70 countries, learning their cultures and studying their educational systems.

My latest international trip was to Hong Kong for a global conference in October sponsored by the University of Southern California. After the conference I had intended to travel throughout China, but my trip was curtailed due to contracting pneumonia which was serious enough for the American Embassy to summon my wife and daughter to travel to China to be by my bedside for three weeks at an international hospital in Beijing. The most frightening part of this ordeal was when I realized I was all alone in a city of over 20 million people, very ill, unable to speak the language and not knowing anyone or anything about the health care system or how to access medical services. I won't bore you with all the details, but fortunately, I received excellent care and I am here today to talk about it.

After graduation today, you will be going in different directions. Many of you will pursue careers in education, business or the arts. Others will continue your education by attending graduate school. Stay in contact with your college friends because they can help you in many respects including networking and connections.

I am proud that my college roommate and friend for over 50 years, Bob Warner, and his wife, Florence, are attending the graduation today. Also, I appreciate Rich Yoder, the former Mayor of West Chester, outstanding former faculty member, and a good friend for coming to today's commencement.

During the past 30 years, I have taken an enthusiastic interest in entrepreneurship and currently serve as co-director of the International Academy for Educational Entrepreneurship where we assist and encourage educators to put their ideas into practice and become educational entrepreneurs for the benefit of students.

I am very impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit I see embedded throughout West Chester University, and the climate for encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship. A few examples are:

The College of Education's 3E Institute that was started ten years ago by Dr. Judy Finkel and Pat Roberts and has continued to do great things under the leadership of Pat Benes. The 3E Institute is receiving recognition from throughout the US and internationally for its graduate certificate program in Entrepreneurial Education that has online courses taught by WCU faculty. 3E hosts an Educator 500 banquet each year recognizing innovative educators from schools throughout the greater Philadelphia area. 3E also provides professional development for teachers and helps educators receive 3E Seed Grants. I encourage all of you who will become teachers to look into this very exciting and creative program.

The Dr. Edwin Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center in the School of Business and Public Affairs established the Entrepreneurs Fellows Program that serves as a catalyst for regional economic development by promoting entrepreneurship at WCU, in Chester County and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania through workshops, mentoring, coaching and experiential learning for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The College of Visual and Performing Arts continues to be on the cutting edge with its entrepreneurial endeavors. A couple of examples are the Brandywine Piano Institute and the Marching Band Camp.

I am sure I do not have to tell you that you are facing a very challenging economy and job market. Be assured, West Chester University graduates have usually done well in the job market, even during the toughest times. Those of you who are or will be looking for a job have to think "outside the box" and be tenacious, flexible, determined and optimistic when trying to get that first job. You might have to take less than you feel your qualifications command, but getting your "foot in the door" is very important in order to show your "stuff".

In addition to pursuing a job, I would encourage you now and throughout your career to consider becoming an entrepreneur either in the for-profit or not-for-profit sectors by thinking of areas in which you have expertise or an extensive interest. Entrepreneurship is the "engine" of our economy. Even though our economy is struggling, according to the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship, a recent poll of your generation, the "Millennial Generation," you are an entrepreneurial bunch. 54% of people ages 18 to 34 either want to start a business or have already started one.

It is interesting to note that 99% of all companies are small businesses of less than 100 employees started by entrepreneurs. 60% of all businesses started with less than $50,000 and 56% started their businesses at home. 70% of all new jobs are created by small businesses started by entrepreneurs.

We have found that most successful entrepreneurs turn their dreams into innumerable benefits for society. They usually take ordinary concepts and make them extraordinary. They have a refreshing passion for their enterprise and a tireless dedication to making a difference. Entrepreneurs are usually adventurous risk-takers who are not afraid to put everything on the line. Where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities. Most of them begin their businesses with little more than a good idea and a strong determination to make the idea work. If you want to become more independent, creative, and take greater responsibility for your life, becoming an entrepreneur might be the answer.

I will end with sharing a motto that I have subscribed to throughout my career:

  • DO GOOD! WORK HARD! HAVE FUN!
  • DO GOOD in helping those people who are less fortunate.
  • WORK HARD and be the best that you can be.
  • Most of all HAVE FUN in what ever you are doing. Don't wind up being a "could have", "should have", or "would have" person - be a "CAN DO" PERSON!
  • DO GOOD! WORK HARD! HAVE FUN!

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your Commencement today and best wishes to all of you for a great future. Happy Holidays!