In his address to the 375 summer graduates at Tennessee Technological University Aug. 3, Curt Reimann, an internationally recognized expert in business quality initiatives, stressed the realities of economic competition facing graduates and provided sage advice for success.
Reimann, former director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and senior scientist emeritus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), was selected last fall to fill the university's W. Eugene Mayberry Chair of Excellence in Business Administration for Quality and Technology Management. He spoke to the commencement audience about his own experiences and provided advice about change, opportunity and the need for continuous learning.
"Competition is driving the force of change so rapidly that there is little time to plan or react as we could in my generation," Reimann told the graduates. "The changes I have seen since the late '80s brought about by competition are more profound than in years past. Career planning and other choices used to be much simpler. I and my colleagues had the good fortune to stay in the careers we chose. But in more recent years, I have seen some very able people who have lost more jobs than many in my generation ever held. Preparing for that change by learning to seize opportunity is critical, Reimann stressed.
"Learn to seize opportunity by testing yourself," he said. "You must test your whole being - character, commitment, enthusiasm, the ability to apply what you have learned, the ability to learn from others and the ability to help others do their best.
"The best advice I can give you today is to force yourself to seek challenging experiences, those that bring out, test and define your strengths. This is crucial to building adaptability." Continual learning, he emphasized, is also crucial. "What ends today is not your learning. It's not what you have learned that's important now, but your capacity and inclination for further learning in new settings outside of school. My advice to you is to be conscious of the need for learning not only from books, but from people, situations and experiences
"The world is always changing. Adaptation needs to be built. It's a way of thinking, behaving and relating to other people Q particularly those who differ from you or differ with you. Seek out opportunity for your whole being, and seek experiences that stretch you, for it is those that will be of greatest value to you. Learning will commence with graduation, and continuous learning has never been more critical than it is today."
Among Reimann's honors are the U.S. Department of Commerce's Gold Medal for NIST leadership in chemical measurements, the Distinguished Rank Award from President George Bush, the 1995 Tennessee Governor's Quality Award and the 1994 Quality and Productivity Management Association Leadership Award.
The 375 degrees conferred at the ceremony in Hooper Eblen Center represented 27 undergraduate and 14 graduate major fields of study. Graduating students hailed from 47 Tennessee counties, seven other states and four foreign countries, bringing the total number of Tennessee Tech alumni to more than 43,000. Birthdates of graduates ranged from 1926 to 1975.One doctoral degree was awarded at the ceremony. A. Caner Demirodogen accepted his doctor of philosophy degree in mechanical engineering with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.