Business Executive, Author Steve Pemberton Addresses UMW Graduates, May 11

Business executive, motivational speaker and noted author Steve Pemberton reminded graduates of their power to change the world during the University of Mary Washington’s 2013 commencement address.

Steve Pemberton encouraged graduates to treasure their experiences.

“Every generation has a task. Yours is to remind America what has made her great,” Pemberton said, speaking of the values of innovation, courage and integrity. “You need to remind us of all those things and you are not too young nor inexperienced to do so. You, the Mary Washington Class of 2013, are uniquely qualified to take on this task because those words have been woven into the fabric of your experience at this great institution.”

He encouraged graduates to treasure the experiences that shaped them during their time at Mary Washington.

“What will you remember is that never again will be assembled like this,” he said. “You will remember that faculty member who went the extra step for you. You will remember your mother’s embrace, your father’s chest swelling with pride, a grandparent’s smile. You will remember the way your younger brother or sister gazed up at you. You will remember that each thread of tassel that hangs from the crowns you wear represents the dreams of those who love you. You will look back at those years that bonded you together and you’ll want to do it all over again because time will have taught you that you can’t replicate these years.”

Pemberton has served as divisional vice president and chief diversity officer at Walgreens since 2011, after more than five years in diversity and inclusion at and a decade in admissions at Boston College. A ward of the state for much of his childhood, Pemberton has made opportunity, access and equality pillars of his personal and professional life. He has served on the boards of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Citi Performing Arts Center, the Home for Little Wanderers and the National TRIO Alumni Association. His memoir, “A Chance in the World: an Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past and How He Found a Place Called Home,” chronicles his difficult path through foster care and determined search for his family.

UMW celebrated its 102nd Commencement on Saturday, May 11.

In his address, Pemberton shared stories of his own family with the thousands of graduates, family members and friends gathered on Ball Circle.

“Don’t ever accept any edict or notion that you are too young or too inexperienced to teach,” he said, explaining that his three young children influenced his remarks. “From [my daughter], I have learned that you should never be satisfied with the first story you are told or the first answer you are given, even if it does come from the greatest daddy in the whole world.”

He urged graduates to share their ideas and talents with those around them and cautioned them not to be satisfied with status quo.

“Remember that you came into the world as an inheritor of something,” he said, “but you will most be measured by that which you dare to build.”

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.


  1. Jim Tarr says:

    Good job UMW congratulations to all! Great selection on the key note speaker, very impressive…
    Proud to be the parent of a UMW grad.

  2. Is there any way to get a copy of a video of his speech? He had such excellent delivery.

  3. When I saw Mr. Pemberton’s title I thought, “not another agenda pusher.” But I have to admit, Mr. Pemberton hit a home run. He was funny, emotional and inspiring. As a parent of a graduate, I was inspired, my wife was inspired and my other two children were inspired. Hearing of one overcoming their obstacles encourages our hearts and is what this country was founded upon. I believe we could all learn a lesson from Mr. Pemberton by learning to tell stories. Our personal stories. Then we would inspire one another in these fear mongering days we live in.