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Prudential CEO Tells Class of 2017 that Life Isn’t Linear
Prudential CEO Tells Class of 2017 that Life Isn’t Linear
Prudential CEO Tells Class of 2017 that Life Isn’t Linear

May 17, 2017

John Strangfeld posed three questions to Susquehanna University's Class of 2017: Who will you be? How will people describe you? What will you do when faced with challenges?

Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc., 1975 Susquehanna graduate and emeritus chair of the Board of Trustees, delivered the keynote address at Susquehanna's 159th Commencement on Wednesday in the Garrett Sports Complex Field House.

Recounting his own journey from a "B-ish," largely silent, back-of-the room student to corporate leader, Strangfeld urged the graduates to be doers, to be "green dots" and to embrace challenges.

"Green dots attract and engage others. They achieve far more working together than they could on their own and they aren't discouraged at the first sign of trouble," Strangfeld said. "That brings me to my next big challenge and the question, what will you do when things don't come easily? Will you lean in, or will you fall back?"

As a student, leaning in didn't come easily for Strangfeld. But he did so upon enrolling in the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, which required public speaking.

His performance, his professor told him, was "ghastly." But, he persevered. Thirty years after that public speaking incident, Strangfeld was named CEO at Prudential.

"I got an email from a fellow grad school classmate who I hadn't seen since graduation," Stangfeld said. "The email simply said, 'Not bad for ghastly.'

"Where you start and where you end is not necessarily a linear progression. Sometimes it's waves. Sometimes it's zig zags," he said. "You've got to own it, and keep working it. Over time, you keep creating more optionality in life; more opportunity; more choices."

Wednesday was President L. Jay Lemons' 17th and final commencement as president of Susquehanna University. He will be succeeded by Jonathan Green, who comes to Susquehanna from Illinois Wesleyan University.

"We love this place and we are grateful and honored to be part of the Susquehanna family and we have loved watching generations of Susquehannans grow, bloom and prosper," Lemons told the 460 graduates who sat before him. "It truly has been an extraordinary privilege to lead and serve Susquehanna and to have watched her grow through all these years. It has been better, richer and more fulfilling than I could have ever dreamed." 

Strangfeld received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lemons, as did Harold C. and Nancy M. O'Connor, friends of the university.

Faculty Earn Awards

The John C. Horn Distinguished Service Lectureship was awarded to Mark Fertig, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art, in recognition for his leadership, his skill as a teacher, his rich record of institutional service and his impressive professional resume as both a practitioner and a scholar. 

The inaugural Susquehanna University Donald D. Housley Teaching Award was awarded to Laurence Roth, professor and co-chair of the Department of English and Creative Writing and director of the Jewish Studies Program, for his infectious excitement, his ability to simplify the complicated and his pedagogy that ranges from the traditional to the use of cutting edge digital tools that he and his students use to create a voice for themselves in the virtual world.

The Lawrence A. Lemons Distinguished Academic Advising Award was awarded to Assistant Professor of Art Ashley Busby. Busby currently advises more than 60 students, encouraging them to take on new challenges, celebrating their successes and providing a safe space for students facing challenges.  

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