Florida Tech conferred more than 700 degrees on Saturday as the university convened its 2023 summer commencement ceremony at the Clemente Center.
A milestone for students, the event also marked the first commencement ceremony for new Florida Tech President John Nicklow, who began July 1.
“I am privileged this morning to preside over my first commencement ceremony here,” he said in his remarks Saturday. “While I have only been here a month, it is very clear to me that this is a very special place. Your choice to attend this institution was indeed a very wise one, destined to prepare you for a lifetime of career success.”
Speaking to students from 43 countries and 28 U.S. states, Nicklow said their education at Florida Tech was about so much more than equations and experiments. “It’s about perseverance, critical thinking and problem solving, and it’s about expanding your world and learning and working with others that are different from you and have different backgrounds from you,” he said. “Florida Tech graduates go on to rewarding careers – we call it career success for a lifetime, and it’s one of our core values.”
As they head into what’s next, the students can reflect on guidance from Nicklow and commencement speaker Jorge Mesquita ’83.
“My advice to you today is short and simple,” Nicklow said. “Take today to reflect and celebrate. Really celebrate. And then, get to work. And work hard. Keep learning. And maybe most importantly, keep contributing to your field of study, your career and your community. Your alma mater can’t wait to see the difference you are going to make in our world.”
One of Florida Tech’s most successful graduates and recipient of the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award, Mesquita compiled a decades-long career in marketing and leadership roles at multiple Fortune 500 companies.
Most recently he is the former chief executive officer of BlueTriton Brands, including the company formerly known as Nestlé Waters North America and home to such brands as Poland Spring, Deer Park, Zephyrhills and Pure Life waters.
Prior to joining BlueTriton Brands, he was formerly the executive vice president, worldwide chairman, consumer of Johnson & Johnson from December 2014 until February 2019. Mesquita was employed by the Procter & Gamble Company, where he held various marketing and leadership positions, for 29 years from 1984 to 2013.
He currently serves on the board of directors of Mondelēz and Humana.
That experience provided Mesquita with a unique vantage point on success. He spoke to the students Saturday about what it means to be successful.
- Job one is to know your area of work like the back of your hand. “The difference between amateur and professional is that depth of mastery,” he said.
- The ability to make things better is important. “How can I make this place better than when I got here? Really commit yourself to leaving that footprint. Go beyond what is expected of you,” he said.
- Be a good communicator. “Not only to be able to communicate orally and in writing, persuasively and in compelling ways, in articulate ways, but equally important to have the humility to know you don’t have all of the answers,” he said. “So therefore, be a very good listener as well.”
- Inspire others with admirable human qualities. “It is about bringing out the best in other people and doing so with authenticity and genuineness.”
What are some admirable human qualities? Mesquita cited courage, selflessness, original thinking and emotional intelligence.
“But forget about this,” he concluded. “Make list of the qualities you have seen over the years that have inspired you and that you want to embody. Embrace that.
“I wish you all the success in the world.”