This past weekend, Indiana University Bloomington was abuzz with graduation activities, including the first outdoor commencement in many years. Alumni of several schools also were invited back to campus to speak to graduates at recognition ceremonies.
Among them was Anton Vincent, a 1993 MBA graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business, who today is president of the snacks division of General Mills. He spoke Friday morning to graduates of Kelley’s residential full-time MBA program and their families.
You’ll appreciate Vincent from his work with popular snack brands such as Nature Valley granola bars, Betty Crocker fruit-flavored snacks and something you’ll find at most parties, Chex Mix.
Before sharing what Vincent said in his remarks at the IU Auditorium, here’s his inspirational personal story. A native of Jackson, Miss., Vincent played basketball at Sam Houston State University, which won the 1986 Gulf Star Conference championship and finished the year ranked No. 2 among NCAA Division II programs.
But as Vincent acknowledged in his remarks Friday, being a college basketball star was a liability when he began applying to MBA programs a few years after earning his undergraduate degree from SHSU in 1987.
One of three people Vincent remains thankful to today is someone “near and dear” to his heart, Patricia W. Mulholland, retired admissions director of Kelley’s MBA Program.
“Pat gave people like me a chance,” Vincent said. “I was a student-athlete in college. Between travel and training and the rigors of trying to play sports and to do well with academics, I did not live up to my full academic potential.
“I knew this and when I made a decision to attempt to enroll in business schools, I encountered some difficulty. When I came to IU, I told Pat that if she gave me a chance I would never let her down. That has been my single focus in my professional career. So wherever Pat is, thank you Pat. Anton’s doing OK.”
Vincent was a student leader at Kelley, serving as president of the Black MBA Association and a member of the MBAA President’s Council.
A success both inside and outside the executive suite
Since graduating from Kelley, Vincent has received many awards and accolades, including Diversity MBA Magazine’s “Top 50 Under 50” in 2006, Black Enterprise‘s Top 100 in Marketing & Advertising in 2011 and Savoy Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential African Americans in Corporate America in 2014. He was inducted into the IU Kelley School’s Academy of Alumni Fellows in 2012 and serves on the school’s Dean’s Council.
Vincent also is one of more than 80 Kelley graduates now in the professional ranks at General Mills, including three who serve on the company’s operating committee.
In her remarks introducing Vincent, Dean Idalene Kesner noted his extensive professional career. “But just as important as his career, is his passion for positive change,” she said.
Vincent is a founding member of the Black Champions Network at General Mills. He has served on numerous boards and philanthropic campaigns. Recently, he founded The Moxie Project, an endeavor built around the same concepts of athletic development for African American teen boys – except that this training is to build strong business leadership.
Advice for the Class of 2015
In his speech, Vincent engagingly encouraged graduates to be provide “differential leadership” in a world that is “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and, in some cases, dangerous.” He asked, “Who will you be as a 21st century leader?”
“Where is America today? Is America in the process of reinventing itself; of reimagining how we live, how we organize and how we co-exist peacefully around the world? If you believe we are, then your role will be to help rehabilitate, to restore, to reorganize, to repair. For all intents and purposes, this graduation finds you at the precipice of America’s third reconstruction,” he said.
“This reconstruction will find America testing its original premise, repositioning its global leadership and defining the new ideal for the great American melting pot and the concept of capitalism,” he said. “This reconstruction will not be characterized by rights or by more fully codifying laws that force society to live up to the principles of its founding fathers. This will be a reconstruction like no other.”
He offered “five tenets of leadership reconstruction:”
- Reorient your leadership philosophy (“Scale your innovation. Blend your creativity with discipline and out-execute in your marketplace.”
- Fail, refail and engage your imperfection (“I implore you not to judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you sow. Never be afraid to be right.”);
- Reach out with respect and humility;
- Recommit to getting to yes (“It takes commitment to appreciate your partner or opponent’s needs. In the intimate dance of influence, you have to be singularly focused on joint outcomes. They are stronger. They are more long lasting and they are more fulfilling.”)
- Relearn (“Differential leaders keep an abiding thirst for discovery, are open to change and often are the first to unearth new insight that leads to new ideas that generate new and different action.”)
“You are re-entering an incredible global economy at a fantastically critical time. Our world, our institutions, our way of life is changing in profound and dramatic and exciting ways. Many significant rules … are being rewritten right before our eyes,” he said.
In closing, he hopes he has been an example for others. “My name is Anton Vincent and I am a Kelley.”
The MBA Graduate Recognition Ceremony is just one of several ceremonies celebrating the accomplishments of the IU Class of 2015. IU Commencement, featuring remarks by IU alumna and ESPN sportscaster Sage Steele, and other recognition ceremonies for Kelley and other schools can be watched in their entirety online at broadcast.iu.edu.