‘The Commencement’

By George Gregory
Special to the CS&T

When the pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies is over, high school and college graduates find themselves in a world that offers much opportunity, but one that can also be harsh.

Moving forward from the comfortable routine of an academic environment into the world of corporate business can feel, at first, like being in the middle of an ocean with unseen dangers circling about.

But as we approach commencement season, a recently published book by a local author provides an enjoyable read along with eight valuable tips for success.

The book is appropriately titled “The Commencement,” and it was written by entrepreneur Dan Sinnott, a member of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Wilmington, Del. He is an accomplished public speaker and lecturer at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as founder of Sinnott Executive Consulting.

Sinnott spent 15 years working for Catholic Health Initiatives in the Philadelphia area before starting his consulting firm. He is also a cancer survivor and remembers well the three messages God sent him: the cancer itself, the recovery, and his wife Gail’s statement: “What are you waiting for?”

Without these, he admits, “I might have stayed the course I was on and not had the courage to start my own business.”

Sinnott chose to share his tips for success in the form of a fable set in academia. The primary plot of his story revolves around the upcoming commencement speech at fictional St. Cletus College. Sinnott said he picked that name from the first Eucharistic Prayer, which lists the apostles, early martyrs and first popes, including Cletus.

The two main characters are the respected and likable business school dean Henry Ger, and the arrogant college president referred to as President Peters throughout the story.

Dean Ger is an unconventional and inspiring teacher who pushes for new policies to save the college in the face of dropping enrollments. President Peters tries to intimidate Dean Ger into resigning. The graduating business leaders have requested Dean Ger to deliver their commencement speech, but President Peters wants to see the dean humiliated.

“Being an effective leader is not hard, but it does take hard work,” said Sinnott. “If you align your personal and professional values, great things can happen.” This echoes the moral of his book, illustrating that we must be willing to “break out of the box” periodically while remaining true to our ideals.

The eight guidelines emphasized in the story focus on making a good first impression, recognizing candor as a gift, playing to your strengths and maintaining balance.

Sinnott admits these guidelines are not new or difficult to comprehend, but implementing them can be very challenging. “Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the activities of doing our jobs that we forget to work on the actions that are needed to foster complete career and business success,” he said.

While it is never easy rallying for change or embracing it, Sinnott’s book will furnish the high school or collage graduate with the tools to overcome society’s challenges while understanding that self-improvement never stops, regardless of one’s position in life.

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.