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Tim Solso '69 Asks Class of 2011 to Ponder 'What Will Be My Contribution?'

May 22, 2011

Also: Audio Link[Download Audio: "Complete Address by Tim Solso '69" - 15,722kb]; YouTube Video; 512 Students Receive DePauw Diplomas; Three Honorary Degrees Awarded; Photo Galleries 1, 2, 3; Order Your Commencement DVD

97374May 22, 2011, Greencastle, Ind. — Video Link [Download Video: "Guidelines and Contributions" - 1707kb] "I am excited about the prospects ahead of you," Theodore M. "Tim" Solso, chairman and chief executive officer of Cummins Inc., told 512 graduates of DePauw University at the 172nd annual commencement this afternoon. The ceremonies were held outdoors in Holton Memorial Quadrangle. The start of the proceedings were delayed a half-hour because of a storm cell that passed through the area in the late morning/early afternoon.

Solso, who graduated from DePauw in 1969, told the Class of 2011, "Each generation has the opportunity to do things better than the previous one, to resolve issues that push us to conflict, to find cures for the diseases that plague us, to develop the technology that helps protect our environment or enrich our lives, to create a more civil world where actions are driven by consideration for others. Ultimately, each of you will define your own guidelines for life and determine what kind of contribution you will make." 

97360A psychology major at DePauw, Tim Solso earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1971, the same year he joined Cummins Inc. He has served as the company's chairman and chief executive officer since January 2000. Prior to his current role, he was president and chief operating officer from 1995-2000 and served as vice president – engine business from 1988-1995.

When he received his DePauw diploma 42 years ago, Video Link [Download Video: "Thinking Bigger" - 823kb] "I was focused mostly on myself," Solso told the graduates, faculty and large crowd that gathered for today's proceedings. "I did not know what I wanted to do or could do, but I was definitely not thinking about what my contribution would be. I suspect many of you are in that same boat." He added, "I believe if you ask yourself what your contribution will be at the beginning of your adult life and focus on contributing in all that you do, you will have a meaningful life." 

Solso offered the Class of 2011 five "guiding principles" to take into the world after college:97326

  • Character matters
  • Embrace change; it is inevitable
  • Give back; it will make you a better person
  • Be civil, and...
  • Have fun, every day.

He noted, Video Link [Download Video: "Character" - 777kb] "Character is an internal value, sometimes known only to you. It is about what you do and think privately. It is what you do when no one else is looking. It is about the choices you make at the very core of your being."

Two "challenging dynamics" -- globalization and the shifting demographics of the American population -- "require us to embrace change if we want to be successful and lead fuller lives," Solso insists. Noting that DePauw students come from 36 countries and 46 states on campus and that many of the undergraduates study abroad, he added, Video Link [Download Video: "Embracing Difference & Change" - 2113kb] "Meeting and knowing -- really knowing -- people who are different from you is enriching. It is a great learning experience that helps you better understand a changing97346 world and prepares you for the future. Frequent dealings with people who are different can take you out of your comfort zone. That is when the best learning occurs. I believe your own personal success will be affected by your ability to treat others as you would like to be treated. That is especially true of people who are different from you. How well we manage this diversity will have a direct influence in our ability to contribute."

Barron's has listed Solso as one of America's "30 Most Respected CEOs" and he was one of five finalists for MarketWatch's "CEO of the Decade." Looking at the students before him, he stated, Video Link [Download Video: "Privilege" - 987kb] "Almost everyone here today comes from privileged backgrounds. Some may not be financially privileged, 97349but privileged to have the opportunity to study at DePauw through scholarships. Having a DePauw education and being a part of the DePauw community is a privilege for life." 

With 1.1 billion of the Earth's people living on less than $1 a day, the need for compassion and understanding is great, the winner of the 2007 International Executive of the Year award said. "As you go through life, you can use your own success to help create a better existence for those who are less fortunate."

The Cummins CEO cited the personal volunteer stories of DePauw seniors Donta Goodwin, Minnu Paul, Katie Sink, Liz Massoth, Arielle Brosman and Adam Hawkins as an example of the good deeds the University's students do on a consistent basis.

Video Link [Download Video: "Making a Positive Difference" - 3885kb] "Volunteerism and community service is a long-standing tradition at DePauw and is one of DePauw’s values of which I am most proud," Solso declared. "When your goal is to make a positive difference, the benefits from your actions97364 can literally touch hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. You make the world a better place. And the experience makes you a better person."

Solso also called on graduates to bring civility to the nation's daily conversations. Video Link [Download Video: "Communicating with Civility" - 1200kb] "It is important for us to pause for a moment and make sure we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds," he stressed. "If your behavior is more civil, it will become contagious and others will behave in a similar manner. These collective individual acts of civility will enrich our lives and make our societies better."

Finally, when it comes to fun, Solso told the young scholars, Video Link [Download Video: "Loving Your Life's Work" - 1505kb] Tim Solso 010e"If you are passionate about what you do, you will do it well. It is possible to feel good about your job. In fact, I think it is essential if you want to have a fulfilling life. I believe that if you enjoy what you do, have a passion for work, face life and its tasks with a positive attitude you will achieve more than you and perhaps others thought possible. And you will do it with a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment."

Solso and two other distinguished individuals -- Cassel Grubb, professor emeritus of music at DePauw and former director of the DePauw University School of Music; and Ian Morris, Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and professor of history at Stanford University, received honorary doctoral degrees.

For the tenth year in a row, DePauw is producing a limited edition commemorative DVD.  The disc, which is professionally 97371replicated, will include footage of graduates receiving their DePauw diplomas as well as a range of bonus materials. 2011 graduates will each receive a free copy of the DVD this year, to make up for the disruption to the commencement ceremony caused by the threat of dangerous weather.  Other orders are now being accepted at $19.95 for the first disc; additional DVDs sent to the same address are $8 each (7% sales tax will be added to Indiana orders). An online order form is available here; you can learn more about the disc in this article.

The Latin honors for the class of 2011 graduates are listed here.  For more information on DePauw's 172nd commencement, click here.

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