Two Best Buy executives recently returned to their alma maters to deliver the commencement addresses to the 2017 class of college graduates.
Shari Ballard, the company’s president of multichannel retail, spoke at the University of Michigan-Flint on April 30. And Chief Financial Officer Corie Barry spoke at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, on May 13.
Here’s a quick look at some of the wisdom they shared.
Shari Ballard at University of Michigan-Flint
In her speech, Shari encouraged University of Michigan-Flint graduates to embrace — and be grateful for — the uncertainties in life.
“While your education gives you a lot of options, what it won’t give you is certainty,” she said. “But certainty’s hardly the point of an education. … It is in the uncertainty, and very often the challenges that come along with uncertainty, that we find and develop the truest and most profound gifts of life.”
Shari, who graduated from UM-Flint in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in social work, told the graduates to live their lives as though they knew everything was going to turn out just fine. Worry less about the future and enjoy the moments you’re in more.
“The good news is that while you might not know the answer to how your life is going to unfold or what you’re actually going to do, you can know with certainty how you’re going to be,” she said. “You get to choose that.”
In closing, Shari said the new grads should celebrate their individual skills and use them to positively impact the world around them.
“Every person on the planet and everyone in this room has your own unique genius. Your own unique skills, abilities, inclinations. Your own gifts,” she said.
“Be grateful for your gifts. Be grateful for the gifts of others. Be grateful for the opportunity you have every day, together, to create meaningful, impactful, purposeful moments with each other, because that actually is the point of it all.”
Corie Barry at College of St. Benedict
In her speech, Corie urged the graduates at the College of St. Benedict to think critically, lead courageously and advocate passionately.
“Your career is made not just because you think critically,” she said. “It’s made because others around you think critically and teach you. … Find those around you who will not just agree with you but will push you and challenge you to be better.”
Corie, who graduated from the women’s college in 1997 with degrees in accounting and management, encouraged the graduates not to underestimate themselves. Be ambitious and articulate those ambitions boldly — and, she added, it’s OK to wear your heart on the outside of your chest.
“Leading courageously is not always about being out in front storming the hill,” she said. “It’s not about being the leader. It’s about being a leader. For me, that means being a real, sensitive human in all parts of my life, including work.”
Finally, Corie challenged the graduates to reflect on their purpose in life and build a support network of friends and fellow alumnae. Love what you do and then advocate passionately, she said.
“There is no roadmap to your life. There’s no Siri to tell you to take a left at College Avenue. All you can do is embrace your experiences and passions, make decisions and learn from mistakes,” she said.
“Think critically. Lead courageously. Advocate passionately. Do that, Bennies, and you will lead an exceptional life.”