Class of 2017 Commencement

For the full video of Commencement Ceremony, click here. 

For all the Commencement 2017 photos, click here. 

Christopher Charles Reid Bio

Christopher Charles Reid, president and chief executive officer of Independence Bank, began his banking career over 40 years ago. He graduated from the Graduate School of Banking in Madison Wis., in 1984. His father, Charles A. Reid, and uncle, Maurice E. Reisz, purchased two small community banks, Farmers and Merchants Bank of McLean County and Providence State Bank of Webster County, in 1971. In 1997, the two banks were incorporated under one name – Independence Bank. Mr. Reid began working in every area of the bank, and in 2001, he assumed his father’s role as bank president.  He and Janet have been married for 35 years, and they have two children, Jacob and Lauren, who both enjoy working at the bank. The Reids stay busy outside the bank by spending time with their seven grandchildren. 

Independence Bank has remained a family-owned community bank, and its employees and directors are actively involved in the communities it serves.  Under Mr. Reid’s leadership, Independence Bank has become one of the fastest-growing banks in Kentucky.  In 2014, Bank Director magazine recognized Independence Bank as a Top 50 Proven Performer in the nation. Independence Bank has also achieved Top 10 status for five consecutive years on the American Bankers Association National Top Performing Community Banks list.

Independence Bank is not only a great place to bank, it is a great place to work. Independence Bank has been recognized for ten years in a row as a Best Place to Work by the Kentucky Chamber and Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management, including being named the fourth Best Place to Work in Kentucky in 2016 and recognition as a Best Place to Work in Kentucky in 2017 and the top financial institution in the state. In 2017, American Banker magazine named Independence Bank a Best Bank to Work For in the nation – 14th in the nation, up from 18th in 2014. 

Independence Bank is a regional community bank with 24 locations in 12 counties in Kentucky – Calloway, Daviess, Franklin, Graves, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, Jefferson, McLean, McCracken, Warren and Webster, with assets of over $2.1 billion. 

Brian Kelley Bio

Brian Kelley is a highly-respected consumer products executive and former chief executive officer, president and director of Keurig Green Mountain. He joined Lindsay Goldberg, a private investment firm in New York City, in January 2017. He is responsible for leading the firm’s global consumer products and services investment efforts.

Under Mr. Kelley’s leadership from 2012-2016, Keurig Green Mountain revolutionized coffee delivery systems and the company’s market share nearly tripled to reach more than 25 million homes while significantly improving financial performance, culminating with the sale of the company to JAB Holding Co. for $14 billion. He also spent six years with the Coca-Cola Company, most recently as president of Coca-Cola Refreshments, the company’s North American operations, with over $20 billion in annual revenue and more than 70,000 employees.

Mr. Kelley’s prior experience includes his appointment as president and chief executive officer of SIRVA, Inc.; president of Ford Motor Company’s $13 billion Lincoln/Mercury division; and a number of executive roles over his six years in the major appliance business of The General Electric Company, where he was a corporate officer. Mr. Kelley spent the first ten years of his career at Procter & Gamble in sales and brand management.

In addition to serving as vice chairman of the Keurig Green Mountain Board of Directors, Mr. Kelley serves on the board of AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the College of the Holy Cross Board of Trustees, and the board of Save the Children. He is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross with a B.A. in economics.

2017 Commencement Address

Below is the commencement address delivered to the Kentucky Wesleyan College Class of 2017 by Brian Kelley, Brian Kelley, a highly-respected consumer products executive and former chief executive officer, president and director of Keurig Green Mountain. 

President Darrell; Members of the Board of Trustees; Faculty, Administration, Parents, Family, Friends and, most importantly, fortunate members of the Class of 2017.

It’s truly a joy for me to be back in Western Kentucky. For family vacations, back in the 1960’s, my mom and dad would pack-up the station wagon with all 7 kids and we would make the threehour drive from Cincinnati, about 180 miles upriver from where we are today, to one of Kentucky’s fabulous State Parks — Kentucky Dam Village — the Land Between the Lakes. Life was simpler then. Entertainment in the car was singing, counting out-of-state license plates and the number of horses we could spot as we drove west on the peacefully rolling Bluegrass Parkway.

I do realize that my job today is not to reminisce, unless it has a purpose — and it does — but probably not the purpose you imagine. As you know, most reminiscing done by an older person to an audience of younger people takes the form of persuasion — trying to convince you that the world we grew up in was somehow superior to today’s. I have a different purpose. Thirty-four years ago I sat, like you, as a hopeful college graduate ready to find my place in the world. My place has been in the world of business and I consider myself among the luckiest people in the world to have been able to spend my time learning, shaping and leading some of America’s great companies alongside some truly amazing people. So today, I want to share with you a bit of what I’ve learned about living, learning, and leading in this increasingly complex, connected, transparent and wonderful world.

You no doubt agree with the complex and connected part — you experience the complexity of modern life on a daily basis. In fact, you were built for it and take it in stride. However, you can be forgiven if you question the “wonderful” adjective I also used to describe modern life. The world you are about to enter is going through some of the most profound and unsettling changes we’ve seen in a lifetime. Mathematician, biologist and historian Jacob Bronowski said, “In every age there is a turning point, a new way of seeing and asserting the coherence of the world”. That turning point is now. The technological innovations of the last 20 years have unleashed tremors that are reverberating through every fiber of our society … and these innovations are creating changes faster than our culture can adapt to keep up with them, creating trying times for all of us. The angst can be felt across every spectrum of society: in our political disagreements; in our perceptions of inequality; in our economic projections; in our prospects for the future. In fact, to the class of 2017 here in front of me, this might feel like a pretty tough time to be graduating.

So in this time of negativity and partisan acrimony, let’s have a bit of fun. Try this as an icebreaker at your next party. Walk up to the very first stranger you meet and say, “By almost any measure, the world is a better place to live than it has ever been.” Be prepared for the laughter and a litany of horrific media stories attempting to prove you wrong. However, that line is actually a line right out of Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2017 Annual Letter, written to Warren Buffet, whose generous donations combined with the Gates’ wealth have quickly made the Gates Foundation perhaps the most influential Foundation in the world today. Their Annual Letter provides the detailed data to prove that their line is accurate:

  • Two-thirds of Americans BELIEVE that the number of people living in extreme poverty has doubled in the last twenty years. Yet, the reality is that extreme poverty has nearly been cut in half since 1990. Nearly one billion people have escaped it.
  • Global income, reduced infant mortality rates, life expectancy and educational access have all grown at their fastest pace in the past few decades. In addition, global inequality is actually decreasing.
  • The number of democracies among the developing nations in the world has tripled since the early 1980’s, while the number of people killed in armed combat has decreased by 75%!
  • The number of childhood deaths under the age of 5 has been cut in half since 1990 to its lowest number ever. Why?
  • Because 86% of children worldwide now receive basic vaccines — the highest percentage in history. And the vaccination gap between the poorest and the richest countries is the lowest it has ever been, at 80% for the poorest countries and 96% for the richest.

Cal Tech neuroscientist and professor of philosophy, Steven Quartz, says the reason for such disparity between reality and our beliefs is that as humans we have cognitive and emotional biases that dramatically distort our worldview, making us vulnerable to declining narratives. Human history possesses intrinsic directionality — upward. But we systematically “edit” from the past what is bad and highlight what is good. That gives us the “rosy retrospection” bias you hear from so many older people who claim the world is getting worse.

But today really is different — and it’s mostly because the technological innovations that have led us to the Information Age now pose challenges for us that are truly unique. And some of those challenges look pretty daunting to reverse or overcome.

In the 20 years since each of you of you were born, the world has radically changed from an analog world to a digital one — from a local world to a global one. The creation of the internet and digital technologies coupled with the spread of mobile devices has made the same information available to everyone — from the largest cities to the smallest villages. Information has been democratized and the world has changed forever. It is nearly impossible to overstate the impact of this change on the way we live. And, amazingly, it has all taken place since you were born.

Consider this contrast: if you were to visit Minuteman National Park — America’s hallowed ground in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts where the “shot heard round the world” touched off the American Revolution, you would learn that it took 30 days for the British to actually know the first shot was fired and that war had begun. Thirty days! To deliver that news, someone had to get from Concord back to the Boston harbor (by horse), board a boat and take the weeks long passage across the Atlantic, disembark, get on another horse to London and deliver the news. That was 1775. Distance was still a physical reality — and it separated you from all but your closest neighbors.

A little more than two hundred years later, I graduated from Holy Cross College in 1983 and started my career at Procter & Gamble selling on those same streets of Boston. We had advanced so far that I could get an order from my customer by hand, make a telephone call from a phone booth right outside the customer’s office to our plant in North Carolina, where the order was packed, shipped and delivered in 7-10 days to Boston. We were modern! Life was at telephone speed — some still rotary dialed! Broad mobile phone usage was still more than a decade away.

Fast forward to 2016, last year, a mere 33 years after the start of my career. Last summer I was in Paris on July 14th — Bastille Day. That evening, along with some 100,000 others, I was standing on the banks of the Seine River, watching the fireworks light up the sky over the Eiffel Tower. At 10:30 that evening, a truck barreled through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day 580 miles away in Nice, in the south of France. Within 60 seconds, 100,000 mobile phones along the Seine in Paris began to light up with the news. Within another 30 seconds the Paris police began clearing 100,000 of us from the area around the Eiffel Tower. At the very same time, incredibly, police in Times Square and Trafalgar Square in London and around the world were on high alert. All within 120 seconds!

The Information Revolution is fundamentally changing us. We now live in an instant, global world. Business and communication and data now move in real time — in milliseconds — and our emerging world of big data puts relevant information into our heads continuously. Information is now more accessible, more transparent, more analyzed, more democratized than ever before. Power to the algorithm! And we are just getting started.

The Information Age is profoundly changing us — much of it for the better. The formality and power that historically came from controlling and selectively dolling-out information is being subverted in every corner of our society. The individual is now truly empowered — the worker can have the same information as the boss; the student the same as the professor; the start-up the same as the Fortune 500; the consumer the same as the brand manufacturer. The playing field is gradually being leveled. Today’s ability for any human, anywhere, to use digital technology to turn individual thought into value is the closest thing we’ve seen to equality in human history. But that is only half of the story — the beneficial half.

The ramifications of the global digital age are also shaking us to our very core. When information is instantly available globally, not just the productive and beneficial information is
spread. All information is …. including hatred, bigotry and falsities. Even evil. Along with it, our basic sense of truth and fear are being warped. It is chaotic and painful and frightening and destabilizing and dislocating to go through for us all. It has been said that when fire was invented, its first use was for warmth. Its second was for arson. Such is the nature of breakthrough innovations — they cut both ways.

Adding fuel to the flame in this unsettling time, is the fact that the core institutions we historically relied on to bring us truth and stability now enjoy a lower level of trust than at any time in our history. They HAD the information; they HAD the answers; we went to THEM for the truth. And now they are under searing scrutiny, from within and from without. Government, Media, Religion, Corporations, Education, Law Enforcement, Judicial Systems, Non-Profits, are all trying to find a stable, steady footing in this new, unsettling reality. In the past, they were the CURATORS of our truth. They gathered, shaped and packaged our truth and delivered it to us in portion sizes we were accustomed to consuming. Now, in a world where one individual’s “truth” can be blogged and shared with millions, in minutes, creating a global movement, the fundamental definition of “truth” and where it comes from is being challenged. Is “Truth” simply 5 stars on Amazon? An unemployed bloggers opinion?

All the while our historically trusted institutions are being laid bare, in all of their glory and shame, for all to see. Each is feeling imbalanced as the contours of our social and political landscape shift underneath them. So they must adapt — with transparency; with tolerance; with equality; with empowerment; with justice and with excellence. Or they will wither and be replaced.

Now, I’m a realistic optimist who deeply believes that we move upward — rarely in a straight line, but always upward over time. It’s why I referred to you at the start as the FORTUNATE Class of 2017. I’m here to to convince you, Wesleyan graduates, that you have a special task … one much different than mine; in fact much different than virtually any class of college graduates in history. You are graduating at one of the most exciting times in the history of humanity on this planet. The answers to these difficult issues and questions brought on by the Information Age can and will be found. These dislocations will find a new equilibrium — a better solution; an improved world. Humans ascend. We always do. But it’s up to you to ensure it.

Institutions must be reinvented; many old beliefs and traditions must be discarded and new models and truths must be discovered; and leaders must have the courage and compassion to push for the necessary changes. The answers might come from the developing world; from here in the US; they might even come from right here on this campus; maybe even from one of you industrious graduates sitting in front of me. That possibility truly exists. Because it no longer requires a member of the elite or some formal institution to come up with a brilliant idea. You don’t have to be a landowner, or independently wealthy. It simply takes a brain, a great education, and a willingness to work with passion and purpose to bring your idea to life. To translate your thought into value for the world. Thankfully, you’ve all been given the perfect foundation for this challenge here at Kentucky Wesleyan. You are ready.

So, as you now go forth to convert what you’ve learned here into value for the world, I leave you with seven tips intended to help you navigate your future … tips that are fundamentally different than the ones I was given, because the challenges you will face are distinctly different.

FIRST, BE SELFISH. That’s right, be absolutely selfish, particularly in your first ten years. Meaning, develop yourself first. That is your primary job. You cannot lead others until you can discipline and lead yourself. You cannot teach others until you have a depth of experiences worth sharing. Build character first, and a more effective and fruitful selflessness will come later. Master yourself first.

MY SECOND TIP: GO DEEP. If you want to go higher, you must first go deeper. Tall buildings, tall trees and tall aspirations require deep roots. Whatever you choose to do, go deep and learn your craft better than anyone else in the world. That is the standard. Live more deeply, learn more deeply, love more deeply. When you reach that level of mastery, there is no limit to the heights you can achieve.

THIRD TIP: SLOW DOWN: Just as the problems you will be solving didn’t appear overnight, your solutions won’t either. Today’s world will tell you just the opposite — you have to do X by 25 and Y by 30. The people who write that never accomplished much. Quality and hard work really does win out in the long run. And patience is not only a virtue, it is also often a winning strategy.

FOURTH TIP: EMBRACE CHANGE: Don’t simply reject it or accept it or grudgingly give into it. Welcome the challenge change brings with open arms. All progress in the world has come from variation and change. In fact, I believe the only competitive advantage left in the world is the speed at which we learn and grow. Thirty years from now, one of you will be standing right here where I am, telling graduates from the class of 2047 how much the world has changed in 30 short years. That’s a very good thing.

But, of course, not all change is for the better. Discerning the good change from the bad is one of life’s most difficult tasks — and the source of most disagreement and conflict in the world. Fully embracing change means seeing it, fully understanding its impact, and making an informed, ethical decision on the merits of that change.

MY FIFTH TIP: DEVELOP YOUR OWN, UNIQUE PORTFOLIO OF IDEAS. Today’s ability for any human, anywhere, to use today’s technology to turn individual thought into value is perhaps the closest thing we’ve seen to true equality in human history. The single most valuable asset you have today is your portfolio of ideas, and your capacity to generate them. Invest in deep learning; Build that portfolio … and fully develop each idea so that you can translate it into value for the world.

MY SIXTH TIP: WEAR YOUR CROWN LIGHTLY: Whatever power or fame or status you achieve in your life, wear it lightly. Becoming a true leader is always a humbling experience. It requires this unnatural combination of unshakeable confidence and authentic humility. On days when you lose one or the other, you are not an effective leader. If you lose both, you are dangerous. Here’s why. Despite what nearly everyone today will tell you, leadership is ultimately an unselfish act. The job of a leader is not to create followers. The job of a leader is to create more leaders who will become even better than you. Only then will your idea, your business, your institution, your creation be sustainable.

MY FINAL TIP: REDEFINE FAILURE. Life is not about falling down. Life is about getting up. Failure is not falling; Failure is the unwillingness to get up. The most successful people I know are simply the people who have gotten up more often.

In fact, I know of only 3 failures:

  1. The failure to love and forgive
  2. The failure to learn and grow — by refusing to get up
  3. And the failure of low aim

Class of 2017, be selfish, go deep, aim high, slow down, develop your own ideas, fall and get up often. I wish each of you every success as you stumble and fall on your way to your grand achievements. Thank you, Good Luck and God Bless.