Alum tells grads: embrace challenges, be true to yourself

FITCHBURG STATE GRADUATION

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Christina Webb of Franklin waves to family and friends during the processional at Fitchburg State University's undergraduate commencement today.(T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)

By Paula J. Owen, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF


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FITCHBURG — The main quadrangle at Fitchburg State University was packed with friends and family waiting to congratulate the nearly 600 graduates at the school's 117th commencement and to celebrate their achievements with them.

Michael J. Deitemeyer, president of Omni Hotels and Resorts and a 1986 FSU graduate, delivered the address at the undergraduate ceremony under warm, sunny skies.

Mr. Deitemeyer, who studied business and accounting at FSU, said it was an internship during his college years that set him on a successful career path.

The first-generation college grad, who grew up in Lancaster, told the graduating class that he managed to graduate despite the exhaustion of studying and commuting, while balancing his course load with a full-time job during all four years of college.

He also acknowledged his mother in the audience.

"I'm grateful to my mother, who's here with us today, who didn't give me an option, but told me I was going to college," he said.

He told the graduates to stay true to themselves while building their own brand.

"If you will, let's think for a moment about the journey you begin the moment you walk across this stage," Mr. Deitemeyer said. "Let's frame this day forward in the context of building your own brand. Your brand, literally being you — an individual, a professional — contributing to yourself, your family and the global community.

"While it may not sound so glamorous in those terms, when it comes down to it, it's your challenge. The trick is to do all this while remaining true to yourself and finding the balance that will ultimately define you."

He encouraged them to embrace and master those aspects of their jobs that they hate the most.

"Ultimately I made a decision to try to master certain things at work, even if I hated them," he said. "If you learn this early, these experiences will help you to become a stronger and more compassionate manager later.

"…The reality is you're just a paid student at the beginning. You start at what may feel like the bottom. As an entry-level employee, despite the industry, autonomy or salary level, you must put in your time, tolerate the grunt work and earn the respect and trust of those around you."

As president of a national luxury hotel brand, he said, he — like most employers — looks at a few things when recruiting recent college graduates: attitude, presentation and relevant work experience.

"But, what I really tell my team is to look beyond the person with the highest GPA, and rather to that person who overcame obstacles to achieve an education," he said. "…You always have the ability to do more, reach for more — and you will be rewarded for it. With that, you can achieve almost anything."

FSU President Robert V. Antonucci presented Mr. Deitemeyer and acclaimed documentary filmmaker John M. Antonelli, who also attended FSU, with honorary doctorates of humane letters.

Mr. Antonucci asked everyone at the ceremony to observe a moment of silence for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings and for one of the graduates who was missing.

FSU senior Robert E. Adriano died in recovery at Cambridge Health Alliance Hospital after a heart operation less than a month before his graduation, Mr. Antonucci said.

The accounting major from Manila, Philippines, was an example of a "student making in the States," Mr. Antonucci said, who made his family proud.

Though Mr. Adriano didn't make it to his graduation, Mr. Antonucci awarded him a bachelor's degree in business administration.