COLUMBIA — As commencement speaker Edward Rapp stood at the podium in front of 695 MU College of Business graduates in Hearnes Center on Friday, he found himself in an unlikely but oddly familiar position.
"When I went to Missouri, I always dreamed of playing in Hearnes, but I never thought it would be like this," Rapp, a Missouri graduate, said.
Rapp, group president and CFO of Caterpillar Inc., echoed the concerns of today's graduates quickly moving into a business world fraught with uncertainty.
"Yes, there are challenges, but you are not the first group of college graduates to go through it," Rapp said. "The future is not inherent, it is created."
To avoid complacency, Rapp said the graduates should find what they have a passion for, make it a job and it will never become work.
"If you have to choose between passion or money, I would choose passion," he said. "The most successful people are the ones that did what they loved."
Rapp also urged the graduates to "strike a balance" between work and a personal life. "If you do not work on your personal life, like you work on your professional life, then your life will suffer," he said.
The family he has created with his wife is the greatest joy in his life, Rapp said.
The graduates should recognize the people around them for the guidance they have provided, he said.
"If you are like me, you did not get here on your own," he said. "I would strongly recommend that you reach out to (family and friends) to tell them how much they mean to you."
Rapp ended his address with a simple statement on the way graduates should live their lives: "Do it once, do it right, and do it with no regrets."
Ben Pepper, a graduating senior selected by his fellow students to speak, quoted Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the richest people in the world, in his remarks.
Pepper quoted Buffett as saying: "'Without passion, you don't have energy. Without energy, you don't have anything.'"
Pepper, a Kansas City native, told his fellow graduates to "find your passion and follow it."
"If you have the faith to take the journey, you will be rewarded," Pepper said. "Every day, more and more people like us are making their impact on society."
To close his address, Pepper put a clever spin on Buffett's quote.
"Without energy, you cannot be a Tiger. And therefore, success is inevitable."
Joan Gabel, dean of the Business College, said success may come to graduates very differently.
"Success is a very individual thing," Gabel said. "You will all progress at different speeds and different paths. Challenges yield opportunity."