The last time Henry “Ric” Duqu?s spoke at a School of Business graduation ceremony, School of Business Dean Susan Phillips announced a $5 million gift from Duqu?s and his wife to name Duqu?s Hall.
Eight years later, Duqu?s told more than 400 graduates to exercise honesty in their work, citing “business missteps” that have occurred in recent years in the business world.
“Making something complicated to make it seem ethical should be a warning sign to you,” Duqu?s said. “Keep it simple, and I’m sure your class will over the years improve the moral and ethical compass that guides the way business is conducted not only in the United States but around the world.”
Duqu?s, who retired in 2007 as the chairman and CEO of First Data Corporation – the world’s largest processor of credit card payments and electronic money transfers – gave graduates three suggestions for their life after graduation: “Be a continual learner, travel happily and do something to enhance the lives of others.”
He acknowledged education can be expensive, but said he firmly believes the education students receive is the best investment they can make.
“My wife always told my children, if you’re not learning, you’re not living,” Duqu?s said. His wife, Dr. Dawn Brills Duqu?s, was also in attendance. She earned a B.A. in elementary education from GW in 1969, the same year her husband earned his M.B.A. He also earned his B.B.A. in 1965 from GW.
For his thoughts on happiness, he encouraged graduates to not wait for big life events, but to enjoy the journey. “If you wait for those events to make you happy, you will miss out on many, many daily events that bring happiness,” Duqu?s said.
He also encouraged students to give back, but said most contributions don’t have to be financial. He shared a story explaining why he wanted to help GW; he attended GW for free on a basketball scholarship.
“This is not a commercial encouraging you to make a financial contribution to GW or any other cause, but it is an encouragement to find a way to give your time or money to improve the lives of others.giving back is an enormously rewarding part of life,” he said.
“It’s certainly fitting that he’s addressing the class of 2010. This is the first undergraduate class to have spent all four years in Duqu?s Hall,” Phillips said as she introduced Duqu?s as the keynote speaker.
The graduation ceremony was the last Phillips would spend as dean, as she prepares to step down from the position this summer.
At the close of the ceremony, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs Lawrence Singleton spoke about Phillips’ achievements leading the school, and presented her with a framed collection of her commencement medallions over her 11 year-long career.
Phillips said the moment was bittersweet.
“It has truly been an honor for me to lead this school into what I hope will be an exciting new era of achievement and continued recognition for our students and our faculty,” she said.
Senior Jordan Chisolm said after the ceremony it was good to hear from Duqu?s, adding that the business leader put what’s going on the business world into perspective.
“I didn’t know too much about him. It’s good to put a face to a name,” Chisolm said.
Senior Lindsay Schutter said she thought both speakers were really good, but parts of Duqu?s’ speech stuck out to her: “Especially his quotes about how money isn’t everything, ” she said.