A Welcome Letter to our New Students from Dean Bobby McCormick
My first day at Clemson was a Tuesday, August 17, a long time ago. I still remember almost everything that happened that day when my family dropped me off to begin the next part of my life journey. I hope your time here at Clemson, starting this week, has even more joy.
I encourage you to pause and ponder this major change in your life, made more poignant this year by a total eclipse of the sun. How prophetic. How memorable. This is one of those weeks where a collage of little things collide to create a picture for your memory book that may last a lifetime. It has for me.
I invite you to turn up your ears and eyes, create a moment that you can enjoy 50 years from now as you tell your grandchildren about your first week at Clemson. Tune into the cicadas as they sing, relentlessly serenading the night. Notice Sirius in the sky as you learn why we call these the “dog days of summer.”1
Try not to go too crazy, but seek a path you create. Go to class, almost all the time. Do most of your homework. Feast at the table Clemson has set for you. Discover who you are and forge a plan for creating a life for yourself with some purpose.
Most of your education this semester and next will be away from Sirrine and Godfrey Halls as you prepare your general skills in English, Science, Arts, Humanities, and the base of college. Soon, however, you will wander into the Management, Marketing, Accounting, Finance, Economics, or Graphics classes that broaden and deepen you as a thinker, communicator, leader, expert, and business person.
The faculty and staff here are really, really good at teaching you the basic and complex skills necessary to be successful in business. But, and I am pushing you here, there is more. We all want you to find a sense of purpose, a reason, a why.
You can learn how to do business in a lot of places. While we are very good at teaching you that, we are not particularly unique. Where we stand apart from others and where we really will affect and impact you is the “why of business.” I encourage you to dig deeply into your studies, into the practical and vocational part of your education here, but also into the deeper questions of why you’re studying business, and your purpose.
Consider the life and career of Mr. Bill Gates. He and his wife have become two of the world’s leading philanthropists, with their foundation trying to do all manner of good for people. However, I argue to you that Mr. Gates and his work at Microsoft has and will continue to affect more lives, as a businessman, than he ever will as philanthropist.
All the good work that the Gates Foundation might do is swamped and overwhelmed by the massive impact that his company had on the lives of almost everyone on earth. Microsoft, for more than 35 years, literally changed the world. The combination of desktop hardware and software affected everything that has happened since the 1980s and by all accounts will continue to do so for a long time.
My point is that Mr. Gates made a LOT of lives better, countless people in countless ways. That is a life’s purpose.
I argue to you and invite you to consider carefully, that your commitment to learning business can have a similar purpose. Not a job, not a paycheck, not a profit and loss statement, but a higher purpose, which is making the world a better place.
The people of Delta Air Lines improve the human condition daily as they arrange transportation for kids to go visit their grandparents, families to travel and relax on vacation, doctors and nurses to travel and give care and aid to the injured and sick, and to provide a plane ride for someone to plan a rock concert for thousands of people to enjoy. That is purpose, creating joy and happiness for others.
The same can be said of accountants and marketing staff at BMW or Verizon or GE. They help deliver products and services that people want and that make life better for regular people. Just think of all the cell phone calls that you enjoy each day, delivered by the business people of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or whomever.
When you hear the train whistle blow throughout the day here in Clemson, I invite you to think about all the happiness that is being moved up and down those tracks.
The people who put the stuff on the train at one end didn’t want it as much as the people who took it off at the other end. Happiness was created by the business of moving goods down the track.
Learn the details of how to manage, market, account, graphically design, economize, and finance, but don’t get lost by staring at the trees. See the forest too. Business has a purpose, a noble purpose. Feel it, embrace it, devour it. Let it fuel and excite you.
I say again, Bill Gates did way more for people as a businessman making money than he will ever do as a philanthropist giving it away, and whether he is or not, he should be very proud of that purpose.
Business is good. Business is the engine of human happiness, and without business humans would hardly have any life at all.
Have fun this semester, and the rest here at Clemson. Enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity. You will never again be so lucky or so likely to have a chance to create your own sense of purpose, your own why.
I join the faculty and staff of our College in offering us to help you any way we can on your journey. It’s yours; make it what you will.
And, of course, Go Tigers.
Dean of the College of Business