Kenneth Langone, co-founder of The Home Depot, opened his keynote address during Williamson College of the Trades’ 128th Commencement on June 4 saying, “Being asked to speak at Williamson today is one of the greatest honors of my life.”
The ceremony was held on the Betty and Russell 5W0 Harvey Athletic Field to maintain COVID pandemic requirements, with social distancing and all wearing masks. Each senior was allowed two guests to sit on the field in folding chairs with others watching from the hill above the field.
Langone then offered the seniors much good advice, including take bad experiences and turn them into something good; when you stumble, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on, giving up is no option; help others; faith in God will give you strength to get through tough times; if you have humility you will never get in trouble; be honest all the time; be sincere; have enthusiasm in what you do; never compromise your values; and believe in everything you do or don’t do it.
He also said, “The most important thing is to help other people live better lives and to always ask yourself, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ”
Explaining why speaking at Williamson means so much to him, he said many of the students have a background similar to his own. He grew up in a loving home, but there was little money. His father was a plumber and his mother worked at a school cafeteria. He worked odd jobs, including digging ditches for the Long Island Expressway.
He said, “The most important thing my parents gave me was unconditional love. I’m sure some of you kids have seen hell. Build on your experiences. Look where you are right now. You’re ready to go out with a good paying job and, more importantly, a good future. Make it all it can be.
“We all stumble and fall. Our Lord fell three times on the way to his crucifixion. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on. Giving up is no option.”
He said growing up with difficulties has made him more empathetic and sensitive. “The challenge for you is to take your bad experience and turn it into something good. If you help one life, you help the world.”
He told of a conversation he once had with his friend the astronaut Frank Borman. “I asked him, ‘Weren’t you scared going up into space?’ He said, ‘No, I had my prayers with me.’ He gave me a copy of his prayers and I say them every morning. I know I am going to have bad days and so will you, but I know my faith and spirituality give me strength. Our Lord has seen me through some pretty tough times.”
He said good leaders have humility. “Humility gives you the willingness to understand that someone may do something better than you, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a person. Do what you can to copy what they are doing.”
He also emphasized the importance of being honest. “Honesty comes in one size. You are either honest or you are not. Never compromise your values, they distinguish you from others. It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in five minutes. Today, you are leaving here with a clean slate. It’s up to you to keep it clean. If you do, good things will happen to you. Your word is the most precious thing you will ever have. If you compromise your word, you have nothing left.”
He also said to have concern for others, be sincere, and help others live better lives. “The biggest feeling of success I get is when I know I helped someone else.”
At the end of his address, President Michael Rounds presented him with an honorary Williamson associate in specialized technology degree saying when we have a speaker who represents Williamson in such an amazing way, our board of trustees approves an honorary degree. Langone said it was the first honorary degree he had ever received.
Then, Joshua Baldinger, a machine tool technology senior, presented him with a special plaque that he and two other seniors, Jacob Berge, and Damian Deldeo, fabricated in the Machine Shop for speaking at Commencement.
In his introduction of Langone, Timothy Crow, a Williamson trustee and the executive vice president, human resources (Retired), of The Home Depot, said Langone has touched more lives than he could ever know and has inspired the American dream in many.
“He is a financier, investor, and philanthropist, but is most well known for being the co-founder of The Home Depot in 1978. He helped make it one of the most admired and respected companies in North America.”
He said The Home Depot’s core values, which reflect the values of the founders, helped make the company so successful. They include, build strong relationships and take care of your own people, be a bold leader, encourage creativity, and be generous sharing your time, talent, and resources.
“Ken is known as one of the most successful businessmen in the country and one of the leading philanthropists.”
Rounds opened Commencement saying, “Congratulations 2W1, you made it. What a ride. None of you expected the way the last two years went, but I really admire the way you stepped up and led your classmates with a positive attitude.”
He also thanked the faculty and staff for being on campus fall semester despite the danger of COVID, saying “It is important for a Williamson education to take place on campus.”
In his senior address, John Becker, president of the senior class, said “If Williamson wasn’t strict enough, we had to follow the rules set down by a worldwide pandemic. Senior year was difficult for us because we lost many of our senior privileges. I am proud of every one of you and proud to be a part of this class.”
He then passed the senior gavel to James McChesney, president of the Class of 2W2, who said “Well, guys, you made it. Give yourselves a pat on the back. It took a lot of work to get where you are now. Life at Williamson is hard, but the life ahead of you will also be hard. Keep pushing, you are ready for the life ahead of you. Remember the values, skill, and the discipline you learned at Williamson. These are essential in life.”
Michelle Williams, Ed.D., vice president of Academic Affairs/CAO, then announced the seniors who had been inducted into the I.V. Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the recipients of the Commencement awards. William Bonenberger 7W9, board chairman, announced the recipient of the most prestigious award, the Jeanette and James R. Clemens 3W4 Award for citizenship, leadership, and scholarship. [See below for these lists.]
Rounds, Langone, Bonenberger, and Mario Cetroni 9W3, president of the Alumni Association, then presented the associate in specialized technology degrees.
At the close of the ceremony, each graduate rang the Commencement Bell, signifying he is now a Williamson alumnus.
Chaplain Mark Specht 7W7 opened Commencement with the invocation and closed it with the benediction. The Artisans, under the direction of Sherre Gaertner, opened the ceremony with the singing of the National Anthem and closed it singing the alma mater.
128th Commencement Award Recipients
Alice and Granville Bohmler 4W8 Award, best overall performance: Austin C. Lacey
Frank A. McKee Memorial Award, reflecting the values of Williamson: Austin R. Dubbs
Beth Nelson Memorial Award, greatest contribution to underclassmen: Jason C. Dzedzy
Lesterle F. Smith Memorial Award, greatest improvement: Steven M. Barr
Marjorie and Clarence W. Schrenk 4W9 Outstanding Achievement Award, best overall performance: Kevin L. Tran
Isaiah V. Williamson Horticultural Award, reflecting the values of Williamson: Giuseppe M. Pollino
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Service Award, service to horticulture: Sean J. Standen
Longwood Gardens Award for Excellence in Horticulture, outstanding gardener: Joseph Patrick Hicks
Kenneth H. Groh Memorial Award, best overall performance: Joshua J. Baldinger
John D. Beccaria Memorial Award, reflecting the values of Williamson: Conner A. Lloyd
SCOTT® Shop Towels Award, most improved student: Damian M. Deldeo
R. Bruce Bellerjeau 6W9 Memorial Award, greatest contribution to underclassmen: Chris Carney
John J. Sabia Memorial Award, greatest speed and skill in bricklaying: James P. McGarrigle Jr.
Pennsylvania Concrete Masonry Association Award, for reflecting the values of Williamson: Hunter L. Killinen
Nuneviller 3W8-Fulmer Memorial Award, best overall performance: Marcus A. Williams
S.S.P.C. Award, excellence in structural coatings technology: Nathan D. Lohr
Michael S. Zimmerman 9W1 Memorial Award, academic excellence: Joseph J. Spillman Jr.
Rupp 1888-Zipse 1953 Award, excellence in the electrical field: Anthony V. Marascio
Thomas Gustave Furman 7W9 Memorial Award, excellence in the mechanical field: Mark Anthony Moriarty
Exelon Power/Thomas M. Callahan 7W9 Memorial Award, reflecting the values of Williamson: John Patrick Becker
Michael Savage 1W2 Memorial Award, greatest contribution to underclassmen: Nathanael Burnshaw
Robert Crawford Award, greatest improvement in trade and academic work: Steven M. Barr and Vatangoe Fumba Donzo
Academic Honors Award, attaining a cumulative average of 3.5 or better: Joshua J. Baldinger, John Patrick Becker, Jacob D. Berge, Chris Carney, Damian M. Deldeo, Austin R. Dubbs, Jason C. Dzedzy, Joseph Patrick Hicks, Hunter L. Killinen, Austin C. Lacey, Tyler Anthony Lafferty, Anthony V. Marascio, James Anthony Millison, Mark Anthony Moriarty, Giuseppe M. Pollino, Kevin L. Tran, Richard I. Walker
Monroe L. Nute 2W3 Award, highest educational achievement: Joshua J. Baldinger
Work-Service Award, service above the call of duty: John Patrick Becker
Lynford J. Williams 0W7 Award, excellence in scholarship and athletics: James P. McGarrigle Jr.
Johnson Perseverance Award, for overcoming considerable adversity: Avery T. Frank
Good Citizenship Award, no disciplinary violations in three years: Joshua J. Baldinger, John Patrick Becker, Damian M. Deldeo, Sean A. Donnell, Austin R. Dubbs, Joseph Patrick Hicks, Austin C. Lacey, Conner A. Lloyd, Anthony V. Marascio, Daniel A. Nixon, Giuseppe M. Pollino
Jeanette and James R. Clemens 3W4 Award, citizenship, leadership, and scholarship: Joshua J. Baldinger
I.V. Club Inductees
Joshua J. Baldinger
John P. Becker
Avery T. Frank
Charles A. Harris
Anthony V. Marascio
James P. McGarrigle
Christopher J. Moran
Michael J. O’Brien
Giuseppe M. Pollino
Kyrie C. Stone
Colin L. Suter
Kevin L. Tran
Phi Theta Kappa Members
Adrian L. Alicea
Joshua J. Baldinger
John P. Becker
Jacob D. Berge
Barry J. Boyle
Jason C. Dzedzy
Conor T. Gospodarek
Hunter L. Killinen
Anthony V. Marascio
Colin L. Suter
Richard I. Walker