HONORARY DEGREE REMARKS
TOM SCHNACKENBERG
MAY 24, 2001

Mr. Chancellor, Madam President, graduands, families and friends of the graduands and faculty.

We all know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk Ė how a few coloured beans grew into a huge beanstalk; Jack climbed to the top, picked up a huge treasure and finally despatched the giant who threatened him.

Even though it worked out well for Jack and his mother in the end, it has never been clear to me that Jack knew what he was on about when he exchanged his motherís cow for a handful of coloured beans.

My life has had a bit of that about it also.

I am going to offer you three precepts that have gradually assumed importance in my thinking, and to suggest you keep them in mind as you journey on through life.

The first is that you should never stop learning; the second is that your skill at communication will be one of your most vital assets, and the third is that you should make sure you enjoy what you do.

The degrees you have earned today represent a significant milestone, and you should all be proud of your achievement.

However, your life should be full of learning from now and forever more.

As a youngster I was taught a little about special relativity and we learned about the space traveller who sped off into the distance at 99% of the speed of light and then after a few years reversed course and came back to earth. He was only a few years older and the world had aged greatly in the meantime. I remember wondering why it was the traveller and not those who remained behind who stayed young.

After all, in the relativistic picture, while he was travelling away, so the world was travelling away from him, and when he was coming back the world was coming back to him.

The difference lies in the fact that it is the space traveller who is making the change, going away and then turning and coming back, and that is what breaks the symmetry.

And I know it is true from my own life Ė I left here 30 years ago and have travelled far and wide and now I come back and I havenít aged, hardly a day. Yet I am addressing a group of graduands who werenít even born 30 years ago when I left this University.

My belief is that as long as you are learning, you are the space cadet, never growing old, but the moment you stop accepting new ideas and seeking new knowledge, then you start aging and that is a process that canít be reversed, only arrested.

The second observation is the importance of effective communication, and personal skills. In looking back over many experiences, and listening to similar stories from associates, it has become obvious that the effectiveness of an organisation is largely governed by its ability to communicate.

Communication is not just having the gift of the gab Ė there must be at least one alert listener for every person talking so you need to develop your listening skills equally with your talking skills.

I once heard Norman Schwarzkopf assert that in the US army, a personís effectiveness and advancement depended 85% on personal skills and only 15% on technical ability.

And that is the army, where the command structure is so developed that you would think technical ability was paramount and personal skills relatively insignificant.

Of course Schwarzkopf was also talking about the ability to tell right from wrong, and to do what is right.

It is vital to develop your friendships and your relationships with partners, as the proving ground for how you operate in the community at large.

So make sure you celebrate your success properly with family and friends, and if you have been studying so hard that you have neglected your relationships, then I urge you to take a breather and repair that situation.

My third belief is that you must enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy.

The difference between the indifferent student that I was 30 years ago and the happy and successful sail-maker that I became was the enthusiasm with which I tackled each sail-making problem.

With the carbon nucleus, which was my thesis topic, I honestly didnít care how it was formed, and whether the little protons and neutrons might or might not form groups.

Yet with sails, for some unfathomable reason I have never stopped wondering just what makes one sail faster than another and what makes one sail hold its shape better than another, and lately, what makes one boat faster than another.

If you find yourself in a job that leaves you unmoved, then you should obviously continue to do your best, but waste no time in seeking an occupation that you really like.

Donít make hasty judgements; it may take years to find out what you really like, and be reluctant to burn your boats. Jack got away with it but not everybody does.

Once you get into the right occupation you will enjoy your work so much that work and play and other activities all blend into one and you will have a very effective, rich, and enjoyable lifestyle.

In closing, I want to say how grateful I am to all those who have helped me along the way and who have made this occasion possible.

I am delighted to be sharing this moment with all the fellow graduates here today.

Remember that if you keep on learning, work on your communication and personal skills and work at what you enjoy, you will never grow old and will have a happy and fulfilling life.