Welcome

Welcome to the September 2009 issue of IDEAS, a quarterly e-newsletter discussing the principles of our founding philosophy, The Northwood Idea, as they relate to enterprise, ethics, life and liberty.

We are pleased to present the May, 2009 commencement address by Dr. Dick DeVos, '81 BBA, Founder/President, The Windquest Group. Following the text of the speech, an exciting change in Dr. Timothy Nash's role at Northwood is announced, and you'll meet Dr. Richard Ebeling, the renowned economist, who has accepted a professorship on the Michigan campus.

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Commencement Speech to Northwood University Graduates

By Dr. Dick DeVos
May 16, 2009

Dick DeVosThank you, President Pretty and congratulations to the Board of Trustees on presenting such an extraordinary group of young people.  And, congratulations as well to the parents and family who've supported these young people in their pursuit of their education here at Northwood.

I'm proud to be with you as a graduate, as an alum, and now to have joined your class.  Thank you for allowing me that privilege.

I also want to commend the mission of Northwood to encourage free and ethical commerce in the world.  Isn't it interesting that when we break down one side or the other of that equation, either the free or the ethical, we start to see difficulties?  And, we're certainly seeing those in our country today.  But, Northwood has the answer.  What Northwood is teaching here, the ideas of free and ethical commerce, is the way forward for our nation. 

It's my job today to be part of a long tradition … the tradition of the commencement speaker. You just have to have one it seems, to feel good about graduating, you just hope you don't have to have it for too long.  Now, my job as speaker is to try to distill a lifetime of experience, into thoughtful, meaningful, insightful, hopefully entertaining remarks that are in keeping with the tradition of this school and to do it in ten minutes, or preferably substantially less. 

So, I will try to distill it down as quickly as I can for you. I have just a quick word of advice: "Don't forget to buckle your seatbelt."

Do you realize that 49% of the fatalities, of people who are killed in automobile accidents, actually did not have their seatbelts buckled?  Are you aware of that important fact?

But maybe more importantly, I suggest, is to not forget to buckle your seatbelt because for some of us, that will tell us an awful lot about who you are and what you are.  Whether you make that choice, or not, says something about you.

First, it's going to tell me a lot about how you respect yourself.  And, how can I respect you if you don't respect yourself enough to even do the simplest thing, like buckling your seatbelt?

You know, there are a lot of people in this world who respect themselves too much, that take themselves very seriously.  You know how serious they can be, right? 

Name a few.  Pick my personal favorite, Donald Trump, who takes himself very seriously.

Now I will contradict myself just a little…don't take yourself too seriously, but take yourself seriously enough.  Because you have an extraordinary faculty here that have invested in you; you have parents and family around you and friends around you that have supported you.  Have paid dearly for the education that you've received here.  So respect yourself enough, just not too much.  And buckle your seatbelt so that you show me that you respect yourself and you respect the others who stood with you and made this day possible.

Second, if you don't respect yourself, how are you going to be able to respect others?

How can you possibly realize the strengths and the gifts and the talents of others, if you don't have respect for your own strengths and gifts and talents?

I have a management theory, for those of you that are studying management.  I call it the "Theory of Sufficient Incompetence."

As a manager, one of our challenges is to become sufficiently incompetent in what we used to do, in our prior specialized career, so that we will truly turn it over and delegate it to others.  Allowing them to do the job that they are trained and prepared to do.  Maybe you've worked with managers who don't trust enough, don't respect others enough to turn the work over, and genuinely allow someone else to get the job done.  They're too busy worrying about themselves.  Maybe they need to learn how to respect themselves, get comfortable with themselves, so they can respect others and delegate what needs to be delegated.

So, don't forget to buckle your seatbelt, because it's an indication that you not only respect yourself, but that you respect others.

And a third thing that I would point out to you… if you make the decision not to buckle your seatbelt, it's going to tell me that I should question your ability to evaluate risk.  If you're careless with small choices and small risks, than what choices are you going to make when the stakes are larger?

Life is full of risk.  I think we all know that.  Life itself is a risk.

  • You have a 1 in 850,000 probability of drowning in your bathtub
  • 1 in 3.6 million probability of dying from a bee sting
  • 1 in 6 million possibility of being killed by lightning

Life is full of risks.  Evaluating them and understanding them is the key.  Now, some of you look at me and say "Who's this old guy speaking who hasn't taken any risks in his life, what does he know about risk?"

Well, surprisingly to some of you, I'm very willing to take risks.  I've taken them all my life as a business person and in my personal life!

  • I'm licensed and regularly fly a jet airplane at 500 MPH and 45,000 feet in the air
  • I'm licensed and flew up here today in a helicopter at 150 MPH and only 500 feet up
  • I've sailed countless thousands of miles in the open ocean, racing sailboats around the world
  • How many of you have jumped off a bridge on the south island of New Zealand, bungee jumping?
  • Or, the best indication I have of my high risk tolerance, is the fact that I ran for Governor of Michigan … as a Republican!

That shows you I'm fully prepared to take risks!

But do you evaluate the risks you take?  When you buckle your seatbelt, you're telling me something about how you evaluate risks.  Take them.  Enjoy them.  I do, every day.  But, enjoy them wisely.

Why is that important?  Well, there are two reasons.

The first reason is, because this broken world needs you.  It needs you to take care of yourself.  It needs you to make sure that you get to work every day, to make this broken world a better place. 

Now, we act as though today is the first day that the world's been broken.  But let's be honest, the world's been broken for many tens of thousands of years.  It just happens to be a little more broke today.  But our challenge and responsibility as leaders is to go out and try to make the world a little less broken.

And those of us who've been in the fight for some time, we need you in the game, Graduates.  We need you there to encourage us with your

  • Vision
  • Creativity
  • Passion
  • Innocence
  • Fresh perspectives

We need you in the game.

Buckle your seatbelt, so you take care of yourself.  So, you show up at work every day, and make a difference every day.

Every day isn't going to be a big difference, but life is a series of small steps that will take us all closer to our destination.

And the final reason I want to encourage you to buckle your seatbelt, is because there are exciting, exciting times ahead.

  • You are prepared
  • You are motivated
  • And you are supported by all of those who are here, standing with you.

That's not to suggest there isn't going to be turbulence.  I've never flown a flight where there hasn't been turbulence.

There's some turbulence right now in the economy and finding a job.  You know that.

There's some turbulence right now because the career that many of you have chosen, in business and business leadership, is not held in the same high regard it may have been awhile back. 

And there's some turbulence out there as the government, and just about everybody, wants to tell you how to run your businesses today.  There's turbulence, and there will be turbulence in your life.

But keep your seatbelt buckled, because you'll be able to fly safely through the turbulence.  Because there are exciting and wonderful times ahead.

Let me reflect with you, if I might, some statistics of what life was like 100 years ago, and how much has changed in the world that we live in.

100 Years Ago:

  • 47 years was the life expectancy, a sobering thought for me as I stand here at age 53
  • 14% of homes had bathtubs
  • 8% homes had telephones
  • 8000 cars were on the road with 144 miles of paved roadway
  • The tallest building in the world was the Eiffel Tower
  • The population of Las Vegas was 30
  • 6% of the United States had a high school diploma

Has the world changed in a hundred years?  Oh, yes it has. Just since I have stepped to this podium,

  • Fully one-third of those dressed in caps and gowns have texted each other about the party after the graduation ceremony is over;
  • The other third have been Tweeting about boring commencement speakers and letting everyone follow their thoughts;
  • And the final third have updated their Facebook pages to reflect that they are now graduates, not students.

More excitement is in store for you, and extraordinary possibilities lie before you.

So, don't forget, buckle your seatbelt.   You're going to need it. 
And maybe, just maybe, every time you get in your car, or you get in a plane and you buckle the seatbelt around you, you'll be reminded that it sends a very powerful message about who you are and what you are.  And, you'll be reminded of your very, very special day here in Midland. 

Congratulations, Graduates!

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Whitepapers and Dialogue

The current national and international economic climate necessitates strategic and effective communication of The Northwood Idea. A new role for Dr. Timothy Nash and a new faculty member, Dr. Richard Ebeling, will help bring an understanding of Northwood University’s free-enterprise philosophy to wider audiences.

Dr. Timothy G. Nash has been appointed to the position of Vice President for Strategic and Corporate Alliances and named the first David E. Fry Endowed Professor in Free Market Economics.  Nash will continue to lead professional and executive education programming and the University of the Aftermarket; work with specialty undergraduate and graduate academic programs; including the Dow/Hantz Executive MBA program as well as develop new and innovative strategic partnerships on multiple levels. In his new role, Dr. Nash will also teach economics and philosophy across the system, including the DeVos Graduate School of Management and Northwood’s Adult Degree Program; work with faculty and staff on whitepapers, media reports, and other philosophical outreach pieces.

Nash joined Northwood in 1980 and received a B.B.A. from the university, an M.A. in Economics from Central Michigan University, and an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction with his cognate in business administration from Wayne State University. His travels and research have taken him to over 20 countries from China and Hong Kong to Poland and Norway where he also participated in academic colloquiums. Dr. Nash is an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland and the former State Director of Economic Education for the clergy for the State of Michigan. Dr. Nash has co-authored three books and conducted research and consulting for a number of Fortune 500 companies, GM UAW PEL, and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA). He serves on the boards of the Free Enterprise Institute (FEI) in Houston, Texas, the Midland Academy of Advanced & Creative Studies, Junior Achievement of Central Michigan, Inc., and the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dr.  Nash’s most recent whitepapers addressed the U.S. Financial Crisis of Fall 2008 and A Kennedy/Reagan Style Stimulus Package. These whitepapers can be accessed at:

A new faculty member has joined us as well. Dr. Richard Ebeling, the renowned expert on Austrian economics, has accepted a professorship on the Michigan campus. Prior to his appointment at Northwood University, Ebeling was the Shelby C. Davis Visiting Professor in American Economic History and Entrepreneurship at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (2008-2009), and a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts (2008-2009). He served as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York in 2003-2008, and was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan in 1988-2003. Dr. Ebeling also taught economics at the University of Dallas in Dallas, Texas (1984-1988), and at the National University of Ireland at Cork (1981-1983).

The complete text of Dr. Ebeling’s announcement and details of his education and experience can be accessed at

Dr. Richard Ebeling, Renowned Economist, Joins Northwood University Faculty

Even as Dr. Ebeling was preparing to join us this summer, he found the time to prepare commentary for The American Institute of Economic Research:

As we prepare to celebrate the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence we should recall why the American colonists made their decision to break away from the British Empire. The Declaration, in the enumerated grievances against the British Crown, makes it crystal clear that the cause was Big Government.

It was a Big Government that violated the colonists' personal and civil liberties, and denied them economic freedom through the stranglehold of a spider's web of commercial regulations, controls, and restrictions. In addition, the hard working people of those thirteen colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America were burdened with numerous taxes that consumed significant portions of their wealth, and were imposed without their consent.

Instead, the Founding Fathers declared the principles of a free people: every individual's right to his life, liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. The ground was laid for the noble experiment in free government and a society of free men associating on the basis of voluntary consent and mutually beneficial exchange.

Unfortunately, in our own time we have returned to a system of government controls and fiscal burdens that are even more oppressive than the ones our Founding Fathers revolted against.

The complete text can be found at:

A Declaration of Independence from Big Government

As you can see, Dr. Ebeling brings a thoughtful and articulate voice to Northwood University.

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This concludes our second issue of IDEAS. If you prefer to receive a printed copy of this newsletter, please call the Advancement Office at 989.837.4356.

As usual, your comments and suggestions are most welcome and appreciated.

Sincerely,

Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO