Commencement Speakers: Uphold Values and Create Vision in the Workplace
December 16, 2017
By Betsy Hnath and Noell Saunders
Old Dominion's 127th commencement exercises Dec. 16 were filled with inspiration and excitement as graduates made the traditional procession across the University seal on Kaufman Mall to the Ted Constant Convocation Center where they heard parting words from a Hampton Roads entrepreneur and a Washington Post vice president.
More than 1,600 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees were awarded, a record for fall commencement at the University.
During the 9 a.m. ceremony, graduates of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, Darden College of Education and College of Sciences, heard from Drew Ungvarsky, CEO and creative director of Grow, one of the top digital agencies in the world.
Miki Toliver King, vice president of operations and digital marketing at The Washington Post, spoke at the 2 p.m. ceremony to graduates of the College of Arts & Letters, the Strome College of Business and the College of Health Sciences.
Ungvarsky — a 2002 graduate of computer science at Old Dominion University — and his company's work have been recognized by The New York Times, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Mashable and Adweek, which included him in its "15 chief creative officers who are inspiring the advertising of tomorrow."
With Ungvarsky at the helm, Grow has created marketing for leading brands like Google, Spotify, EA Games, Nike and HBO.
An active community advocate and civic leader in Norfolk, Ungvarsky serves on the executive board of the Downtown Norfolk Council, where he's helped create the successful Vibrant Spaces program and the Selden Market.
He's a founding board member of the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation, as well as RISE, a nonprofit dedicated to coastal resilience innovation. Ungvarsky is also a founding member of Re:Vision Norfolk and AIGA Hampton Roads.
In his opening remarks, University President John R. Broderick commended Ungvarsky on his revitalization efforts.
"Drew is a known force in the Norfolk community working tirelessly to make our city more attractive to civically-minded young professionals," President Broderick said.
During his address, Ungvarsky reassured graduates who may not have a definitive plan.
"Don't confuse a lack of clear vision for a lack of ambition, or an ability to go far," he said. "The people I admire the most are the ones who are adapting as they go — spending more time doing and learning than talking about where they're heading."
He also advised graduates to work where they would learn the most. Money is always a topic of interest, and Ungvarsky advised graduates to make themselves valuable to stakeholders.
"Find a way to come through in tough situations for an employer or a client and you will endear yourself to them forever," he said.
Ungvarsky concluded by noting the importance of community involvement.
"Most of us aspire to make the world a better place. It took me too long to realize that we can impact our local community in real, tangible and relatively quick ways," he said. "Where national and global issues sometimes feel out of reach, you can move the needle in your own community tenfold."
A Chesapeake native, King holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from George Mason University. Previously, she served as executive vice president, operations at Politico, where she launched the company's first paid subscription product, POLITICO Pro. King was also a litigation attorney at Seeger, Faughnan, Mendocino and director of business development for the health care practice of the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Philips.
Under King's leadership, digital subscriptions have grown by more than 200 percent at The Washington Post. She joined the paper in 2016.
King serves on the corporate advisory board of So Others Might Eat, an organization dedicated to helping the homeless and other low-income people in the nation's capital.
President Broderick introduced King by highlighting her many career accomplishments as she has risen to be a top business woman in Washington.
During her address, King encouraged graduates to define their "character brand" and carry those values and standards with them through their careers and personal lives. She told the crowd they will have to uphold respect, integrity and grace — important elements in building a strong brand.
"The respect you show others should have nothing to do with who they are, but everything to do with who you are."
King continued to say, "Integrity is demanding the best behavior of yourself when there's no one around to demand it from you," she said. "It only becomes part of your brand when it is consistent, unyielding and core to who you are. Exercising grace requires stillness sometimes when you are raging. It's controlling your emotions rather than allowing them to control you."
King cited well-known business management strategist Peter Drucker as she concluded her speech with one final piece of advice.
"As you strive to achieve all that you have been prepared to at this great institution, remember that your character has the power to either accentuate and enhance or tarnish and sabotage everything you do," she said. "So, while you are building your future, build your character brand, and build it well."