Pictured from left: Lima, Ohio Mayor Sharetta Smith, Randall Myers and Jim Dicke III.
What do the first woman and African American woman mayor of Lima, Ohio, a self-described “forklift guy” and a decades-long community pharmacist have in common? Answer: they all drew upon their own experiences to offer time-tested advice to graduates at Ohio Northern University’s 2022 commencement ceremonies, held May 14 and 15.
Guest speakers included Lima mayor and attorney Sharetta Smith, JD ’10, who addressed those at the Pettit College of Law ceremony; James Dicke III, who spoke to undergraduate/MSA ceremony guests; and Randall Myers, BSPh ’82, who addressed the Raabe College of Pharmacy audience.
Smith was elected in November 2021 to a four-year term as Lima, Ohio’s mayor. After earning her law degree, she became a public defender and spent six years in Tennessee as a magistrate before coming to the realization that she could better serve individuals and a community from a different public service standpoint. This road, however, wasn’t smooth.
“By age 21, I had three children and was on public assistance,” Smith said. As a single mother, she faced eviction, car breakdowns, medical bills and other problems that made it challenging for her to complete her law degree, let alone keep her family fed. What worked for her, she says, was perseverance. “I kept showing up,” she emphasized.
Smith’s advice for graduates:
· No one is successful on their own. “I had plenty of help along the way,” she said. And, help may come from the unlikeliest of sources. “My big break came when a middle-aged white male Republican judge helped me become magistrate,” said the liberal Democratic Mayor Smith. “There are still people who can look beyond labels to help people.”
· Commencement is just the beginning of a journey. “Stop. Take in this moment. You deserve it,” she said.
· Live your life well. Honor your integrity and personal responsibilities. Make more deposits than withdrawals.
· Graduating really is a big deal, she said. She quoted Charles Hamilton Houston, the first general counsel of the NAACP who exposed the fallacy of the “separate but equal” doctrine, who stated, “A lawyer is either a social engineer or is a parasite on society.” Smith encouraged graduates to model Houston by using their knowledge to solve problems within their local communities to improve the lives of those who live there.
Dicke III is the president of Crown Equipment Corporation based in New Bremen, Ohio. One of the largest privately held companies in the United States, Crown is an international company with offices in more than 20 countries, more than 15,000 employees and a sales volume of over $3 billion.
“Taking myself back to when I was a college student, my college senior self wouldn’t particularly care about what some 54-year-old forklift guy has to say,” Dicke joked. Yet today’s students should care, because his years at Crown and at life resulted in sound advice.
· Everything you think you know is wrong. “Be open to new information” rather than starting from “a place where you know you’re right” about something, he urged. He shared a story: when Silicon Valley tech giants began reinventing their workspaces by offering free lifestyle amenities, Crown looked into doing something similar. But upon further examination, the company discovered the big tech companies “are pressure cookers,” that can negatively impact workers’ health and that had eliminated all incentives for them to return home. “We want people to go home at the end of the day. We want them to have a life outside of work,” he said.
· Nothing is perfect. Settle for good enough. “We’re not meant to walk carefully through a one-way door when there’s no way back out. Experiences will teach you things you don’t expect.”
· Follow your dreams, but know that almost no one achieves them. “The fact is, if something is truly worthwhile, the journey is never over.”
· Spend a lot of time doing things you hate. “I am not a big fan of public speaking,” he said while standing at the podium in front of 388 graduates and their friends and family. “But if you spend all your time doing what’s comfortable and what comes naturally to you, then where does the growth come from?” he asked.
· Life isn’t fair. Hence, the reason ONU would soon be conferring to him an honorary doctoral degree “for delivering this 15-minute speech while you just spent four years getting a degree under incredibly challenging circumstances,” he quipped. “The best thing to do is, get on with the business of making the most of the opportunities you have. Life isn’t fair, but so what,” he said.
Myers is a licensed pharmacist in Ohio and former owner of Harry’s Pharmacy in Carey, Ohio. Early in his career, Myers pioneered patient care by designing a system that enabled pharmacists to focus on drug therapy and counseling patients. In 1994, he received the DuPont Pharma Innovative Pharmacy Practice Award, which provided him with a national platform to share his patient-care model with a broader audience.
“My career in pharmacy began when I was three years old,” Myers said, explaining a photo was taken of him at that age while he was standing on his family’s pharmacy countertop, wearing a white coat. “I never looked back,” he added.
Here's what Myers had to share with graduates:
· Something unexpected will always change your course. Draw upon your experiences to change and adapt. “You might be surprised at how many different directions a pharmacy career can take you,” he said.
· Every patient has a story, and that story ultimately influences the care you provide.
· Latch on to whatever piece of this world inspires you the most.
· At some point you’ll be asked to serve your community. “Step up. When you are asked, please say ‘yes,’” he said.