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Union College graduates urged to pursue passion (with photo gallery)

Monday, June 14, 2010
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Graduates laugh as Alan Horn, president and CEO of Warner Bros., addresses them during the Union College commencement on Sunday in Schenectady.
Photographer: Barry Sloan
Graduates laugh as Alan Horn, president and CEO of Warner Bros., addresses them during the Union College commencement on Sunday in Schenectady.

— President and Chief Operating Officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Alan F. Horn told Union College’s 2010 graduating class Sunday that money wasn’t important.

He urged the graduates to pick a career that they are passionate about, and not to worry about their salary because money “will come with productive work.”

Horn, a 1964 Union College graduate with a degree in economics, addressed the nearly 500 graduating students during the college’s 216th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday.

Horn said he was surprised that so many people attended the graduation ceremony, which, despite the soggy weather, was held outside on the lawn in front of the Schaffer Library.

“You could all be at the movies,” he said.

After graduating from Union College, Horn received an MBA from Harvard Business School and spent two years in brand management at Procter and Gamble. He then worked at Embassy Communications before starting Castle Rock Entertainment with four friends. The media company brought the world “Seinfeld,” “A Few Good Men” and “The Green Mile.”

As president and COO of Warner Bros., Horn produced blockbuster films such as “Harry Potter,” “The Dark Knight,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Happy Feet.”

Horn offered numerous bits of advice and wisdom to the graduates Sunday from his years of experience.

He told the graduates that being in the right place and with the right people are keys to success.

“If you don’t like your environment, change it,” he said.

However, he said a bit of life’s success comes from luck and chance and urged the graduates to watch out for those moments of “serendipity.”

He also urged graduates to take risks and expect to fail at times. He said to be a person of character and always tell the truth.

“If you want to be a leader, you have to get people to follow you and they aren’t going to follow you if they don’t respect you and they aren’t going to respect you unless you are honest with them,” he said.

Horn’s remarks about character inspired her, said Elizabeth Culp of Virginia, who received a bachelor’s degree in visual arts Sunday.

Culp said she plans to move to Cambridge, Mass., and look for a job in graphic design.

Culp said the ceremony was “beautiful” and she was glad it was held outside despite the wet weather.

Doug Wellen, 22, of Whitesboro, received a bachelor’s degree in economics. He said he liked the remarks from student speaker Nikhil Kothari and the benediction from Bonnie Cramer, director of Union College Hillel.

Wellen said the ceremony gave him a sense of closure.

Kothari will be spending the next year working in Ecuador through the college’s Minerva Fellowship, a selective program that sends seven graduating seniors to developing countries to participate in social entrepreneurial programs. Upon his return, Kothari plans to pursue medicine at Stony Brook University.

Kothari said it was hard to sum up the four years he spent at Union College. He highlighted many of the opportunities he received while at Union, including spending time in Uganda, but also encouraged the graduates in their future endeavors, saying that each of them has “a sense of ambition, adventure and commitment.”

College President Stephen Ainlay praised the work Union College students performed beyond the classroom, including working to build playgrounds at Jerry Burrell Park and fundraising for earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile.

“You have already accomplished much,” he said.

Jennifer Winkelried of Short Hills, N.J., received a bachelor’s degree in history on Sunday. She said she would like to pursue a career in business development, but doesn’t have a job yet.

Winkelried said she is headed back to New Jersey until she finds work.

Looking across the lawn, she said she will be sad to leave Union College.

“It will be tough to transition from college to the real world,” she said, “but I’m looking forward to the next step.”

 
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