GM, Toyota Leaders Deliver Keynote Addresses at Northwood University Commencement Ceremonies

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Key lessons learned during commencement festivities.
(l-r): President Keith Pretty and Mark L. Reuss.

(l-r): President Keith Pretty and Mark L. Reuss.

Mark L. Reuss addressing the graduates.

Mark L. Reuss addressing the graduates.

(l-r): President Keith Pretty and James E. Lentz III.

(l-r): President Keith Pretty and James E. Lentz III.

James E. Lentz III addressing the graduates.

James E. Lentz III addressing the graduates.

May 17, 2013

MIDLAND, MI – As aspiring business leaders prepared to receive their degrees from Northwood University and head out into the world, they learned key lessons on what life ahead holds for them from two of the auto industry’s top leaders during commencement festivities on May 11 at the university’s Midland, MI campus.

Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, and James E. Lentz III, senior managing officer of Toyota Motor Corporation, chief executive officer of North America Region and president and chief operating officer for Toyota Motor North America, Inc, provided keynote addresses during the morning and afternoon ceremonies respectively.

The morning ceremony was for traditional undergraduate students while the afternoon ceremony honored students graduating from the Adult Degree Programs in Michigan. Graduates from the Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management participated in both ceremonies.

As part of the events, Northwood conferred honorary doctor of laws degrees, honoris causa, on both leaders whose scope of experience and influence literally spans the globe.

“Northwood University was honored to host these two very noteworthy leaders and have them participate in our commencement ceremonies,” noted Northwood President & CEO Keith A. Pretty. “Together they provide an excellent example of leadership, integrity and perseverance, one that we hope our graduates take note of as they enter this next phase of their lives and join the business world.”

During his speech at the morning commencement, Reuss emphasized the need to adapt to an ever-changing world and live a life of purpose by working hard at one’s passion.

“Embrace change with an open mind, keep on learning and do both things with a real purpose,” urged Reuss. “The awful truth behind this big day is that your degree does not guarantee success. What distinguishes the winners—those who really contribute in business, in government, in medicine, in education and the arts—is passion and enthusiasm. And, in fact, the harder you work the ‘luckier’ you get.”

In the afternoon ceremony, Lentz reminded the graduates that what matters is not only what they do but how they do it.

“It’s up to each of you to choose not just the path you decide to take, but the way you choose to walk that path,” observed Lentz.

Drawing on his experience as the first American to run Toyota North America, Lentz told the students that leadership is not about wielding power and force.

“As a leader the tone you set is important, sometimes more important than anything else that you’ll do. To succeed, you have to stay true to yourself,” Lentz stressed. “As you begin your careers think about what you want said about you at the end of your career…this is the opportunity to find your ‘inner compass,’ your ‘north star.’ Your ‘north star’ should be the thing that always guides you, that helps to keep you on track when you have to deal with difficult choices.”

In all, Northwood awarded a total of 1,280 degrees on all of its campuses this spring with 798 coming from Michigan—100 from the DeVos Graduate School of Management and 698 from its residential undergraduate and Adult Degree programs combined.


Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.

Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in eight states with many course delivery options including online. The DeVos Graduate School offers day, evening and weekend programming in Michigan, Texas and Florida. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise provides system-wide expertise in family enterprise, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and new business development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in Switzerland, China (Changchun and Wuxi), Malaysia and Sri Lanka.