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Ross Commencement Introduces Bold, Passionate Leaders to the World

5/3/2007 --

AOL founder Steve Case urges Ross graduates to swing for the fences.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Steve Case began his keynote address at the 2007 Ross School of Business commencement exercises by apologizing to parents in the audience for introducing their children to the phenomenon known as instant messaging.

"I'm sorry. I know what it's like as I rarely see my own children—even when they're in the house," he said, noting that he couldn't count the number of times he has patiently waited while his offspring click away at a keyboard.

Case, the former chairman and CEO of America Online (AOL) knows a thing or two about patience and perseverance as he played an integral role in building the world's largest Internet company, transforming how people communicate, learn and conduct business. He shared his formula for success with Ross graduates on April 27 at Crisler Arena.

He highlighted the importance of letting perseverance, passion and people guide important career decisions.

"Anything worth doing isn't easy," he said, going on to point out that he was rejected by several business schools and companies in the early days. He experienced failure early on but several people he met along the way wound up being his co-founders of AOL.

"It was a long slog, and it wasn't easy, but eventually it paid off," he said.

More recently, Case launched Revolution, a company that seeks to drive transformative change by shifting power to consumers. Revolution's mission is to partner with entrepreneurs in building businesses that give people more choice, control and convenience in important areas of their lives. Its current activities are focused on companies in the real estate/resort, wellness and health care sectors—areas Case has become passionate about.

Having passion or a purpose in life is key, he said, and he suggested that Ross School graduates have a unique opportunity.

"You can cut to the chase early and find the thing you can focus your life on," said Case, adding that the most successful companies are magnets for good people and a prosperous working environment.

Business is unique in that it can propel social change and it has the ability to attract capital and people, he said.

"The lines of business are blurring," he said. "We are seeing blended business models in emerging categories."

He urged graduates to consider health care and the environment as being important emerging business opportunities.

"We must strive to live in a consumer-centric health care system in the next 20 years," he said.

"Don't play it safe. Take a lesson from Babe Ruth. He was known as the home run king, but he was also the strike out king. He swung for the fences, but he was willing to fail. You have to be willing to lose in order to win. The world needs bright, bold thinkers. I hope you all step up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park."

Steve Case

Dean Robert Dolan

Student Speakers

Award Recipients

Written by Nancy Davis

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat
Phone: (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847