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‘This celebration is all about you’: CEO sends off Broad Class of 2018 recognizing growth as students, future triumphs as alums

By Omar Sofradzija

Brian Kesseler was the keynote speaker of the Eli Broad College of Business 2018 undergraduate commencement. But he made it clear that the stars of that Saturday, May 5, ceremony at the Breslin Center were the nearly 1,000 brand-new alumni making the move from MSU to their futures.

“This is a celebration, and this celebration is all about you. A celebration of the hard work to complete your degree and a celebration of who you have become since you set foot on this campus as a freshman,” said Kesseler (BA Financial Administration ’88), chief executive officer of Tenneco Inc. “It is also a celebration, in advance, of what you will do and contribute to this world from this point forward.”

A Broad College of Business graduate awaits the start of commencement exercises Saturday, May 5 at the Breslin Center. Photo by Matt Mitchell.

Kesseler spoke from a stage that he had crossed exactly three decades earlier, long before heading one of the world’s largest suppliers to the automotive industry. The $9.3 billion company, based in suburban Chicago and creating products focused on clean air and ride performance, has 32,000 employees and operates 92 manufacturing facilities and 15 engineering and technical centers around the world.

In his address, Kesseler focused on the “it” in life that is key to future success, breaking it down by letter: “i” standing for integrity, initiative, and improvement; and “t” referring to team members, team leaders, and team builders.

In sharing that, Kesseler said he hoped the graduates would build human connections that would “be helpful in establishing your future career; building a life with purpose and passion for whatever you do; and putting you on a position to contribute to something bigger than yourself.”

Kesseler told the graduates, “Teams are smarter and stronger together; they accomplish more, and are better able to overcome challenges. You will achieve more in life – in both your personal life and in your professional life – when you learn, first, to be a good team member.”

A Broad College of Business graduate poses for photos before commencement exercises on Saturday, May 5 at the Breslin Center. Photo by Matt Mitchell.

Kesseler’s speech was eagerly anticipated by Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Broad College of Business. In introducing Kesseler, Gupta said, “I always look forward to hearing from Brian, and I look forward to him sharing what it has taken to succeed – and to exceed the expectations set for us by others, and the ones we set for ourselves.”

The Class of 2018 team took similar paths to the stage in different ways, said student speaker Kaylee Zajac, a supply chain management and economics double major, environmental studies minor and Honors College student from Rochester, Michigan. But everywhere around campus, students thrived by following four core concepts she learned in a required Broad introductory course: SCM 303.

“This class detailed basic supply chain principles, and whether you realized it or not, the core concepts we learned applied to life lessons beyond the boundaries of a classroom,” Zajac said. “Four important steps have shaped four important years. Each and every one of us has a different story to be told, and a different definition of our own success. However, we all share in the simple fact that we planned, sourced, made, and delivered.”

A Broad College of Business graduate smiles while awaiting the start of commencement activities Saturday, May 5 at the Breslin Center. Photo by Matt Mitchell.

She continued; “Our commonality comes from the fact that we all planned, sourced, made, and delivered the best version of ourselves. We embody diligence, integrity, and the ability to deal with ambiguity. It allowed us to create our own definitions of success.”

“As you leave here today, you don’t need luck. What you need to remember is that you created you. From this day on, you’ll be fine-tuning and changing that final product – yourself – because plans are meant to change, and everything doesn’t need to be completely figured out. Congratulations, my fellow Spartan business leaders, your transformation was empowering and completely yours; you should always be proud of it,” she concluded.

Zajac soon departs for Minnesota-based 3M, where she interned and will return for her first post-graduate job as a supply chain rotational analyst.

The college’s 2018 graduates included:


  • Supply Chain Management: 266
  • Finance: 243
  • Accounting and Information Systems: 147
  • Hospitality Business: 142
  • Marketing: 139
  • Management: 61

Advanced degrees, honored at a separate May 4 ceremony

  • Full-Time MBA: 64
  • MS in Accounting: 91
  • MS in Management, Strategy, and Leadership: 91
  • MS in Marketing Research: 23
  • MS in Hospitality Business: 10
  • PhD: 7

Also at the ceremony, two alumni were honored with Distinguished Alumni Awards:

Receiving additional honors at commencement were five faculty members who are retiring after combining for more than 150 years of teaching at the college. They are:

Earlier, a Broad student also represented all MSU graduates as the student speaker for MSU’s university-wide Spring Undergraduate Convocation on Friday, May 4.

Gregory J. “Jack” Riley III, a finance major from Pittsford, N.Y., wrote before the ceremony that he was “very thankful and honored to have been chosen to represent the nearly 10,000 Spartans that make up our class.”

And on March 11, the Broad College of Business Executive MBA program’s latest class of 114 graduates was honored at its commencement at the Wharton Center. The ceremony included a commencement address from program alumnus Ray Scott, president of the Lear Corporation.

Perfect GPA-Holders Honored

Prior to commencement, 22 Broad students were among a record 80 students campuswide earning Board of Trustees’ Awards recognizing the perfect 4.0 grade point averages they carried throughout their undergraduate years.

Those Broad students are Jacob Austin (finance), Tyler Beck (accounting), Claire Bogrow (human resource management), Kayla Braun (finance), Mitchell Campbell (finance), Jared Casaccia (supply chain management), Alexander Decker (accounting), James Doman Jr. (accounting), Blake Ellis (accounting), Ziwei Fan (accounting), Christopher France (supply chain management), Lindsey Howe (finance), Audrey Koutny (hospitality business), Sara Kring (marketing), Peyton Longlet (accounting), Mary Maddalena (accounting), Madison McKinley (marketing), Kyle Morrison (supply chain management), James Pessina (accounting), Michael Schimizzi (finance), Cameron Smith (supply chain management), and Jacob Viazanko (finance).

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