Universal Pictures Executive Addresses UMW Graduates, May 8

Daniel R. Wolfe, executive vice president of Worldwide Creative Operations for Universal Pictures, delivered the undergraduate commencement address for the University of Mary Washington’s class of 2010 on Saturday, May 8. Approximately 5,000 people, including graduates, family members, friends and faculty, gathered in Ball Circle for the 99th annual commencement.

The university awarded a total of 1,201 degrees in both the undergraduate ceremony on May 8 and the graduate ceremony May 7, including 67 master of business administration degrees, 121 master of education degrees, 12 master of science in management information systems, 40 master of science in elementary education degrees, 396 bachelor of arts degrees, 40 bachelor of liberal studies degrees, 56 bachelor of professional studies degrees and 469 bachelor of science degrees.

In his address, Wolfe, who has played an integral role in NBC Universal’s marketing of films worldwide, urged today’s graduates not to be afraid of making mistakes in life.

He described his false starts after graduating from Mary Washington in 1984 that included moving back home with his parents for three years, working at a loading dock for $5 an hour, and getting dumped by his future bride because he had no intention of making something of his life.

“I was floundering, not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but because I was fearful of taking a chance,” he said. “I didn’t want to make a mistake in my life. Little did I know that my mistake was actually doing nothing.”

The death of his college roommate in a car accident jolted him to confront his future and a pamphlet advertising a graduate program in video and film spurred him in a different direction.

“From now on, it’s just about you,” Wolfe said. “Where you go from here is your own personal mission. It is no longer what your parents or your boyfriend or girlfriend or society wants from you. The decision revolves around choosing to do something or choosing to do nothing at all.”

Wolfe gave examples of the risks in the filmmaking business where only about 20 percent of the movies make money.

“Yet even with these odds, decisions are made everyday knowing that mistakes will be made,” he said. “You’re going to make mistakes in life.
Whether it was a personal or professional mistake, I’ve always learned a valuable lesson. Remember, you have to take chances in life to pursue your dreams. If you make the wrong choice, then take another path and then another.”

He charged graduates to “embrace the bad job, the horrible boss, the terrible salary and the long hours. Dedication, hard work and an awareness of one’s self combining the body, mind and spirit will get you through those tough times.”

He quoted a poem by Laine Parsons, “Don’t Ever Stop Dreaming Your Dream,” and cautioned graduates to be careful focusing so much on the ultimate career goal that they lose sight of the things that provide balance to their lives.

He also encouraged them to thank those who got them where they are today.

“A mother, a father, a stepmother, a stepfather, a professor, a teacher, a sibling or your grandparents,” he said. “Even though you will start on your own path, keep them as an important part of your life for they will keep you grounded.”