Saturday was a beautiful day to see more than 300 University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media students in cap and gown congregate inside the Tad Smith Coliseum to receive diplomas during commencement exercises.
Meek School Dean Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., spoke to the audience of proud family members and graduates Saturday afternoon.
“We are delighted today to join with you in recognizing your loved ones,” he said. “332 students were eligible to participate in today’s festivities, but many completed their requirements in December, and some will complete their work in August. They may not be in the ceremony today.”
Norton also recognized Meek School faculty before introducing guest speaker J. Steve Davis, who Norton described as a “major player in the culture of the United States.”
Davis, who has worked in the world’s highest levels of marketing and advertising, has worked for powerhouse brands such as Crest toothpaste, Pampers, Dawn detergent, Scope mouthwash, Bounce fabric softener, Gillette Trac II razor blades and Tropicana premium orange juice.
“Make no mistake,” said Norton. “He is not Don Draper, one of the executives of the ‘Mad Men’ television series who worked and played at one of New York City’s most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s.
“Our speaker today is not (only) a great business man with great knowledge, he is a spiritual man, a man of wisdom. He grasped the great desires and needs of American people. His professional career has been exceptional. He is known worldwide as an uncommonly astute strategic marketing professional. He is revered at the highest levels of integrated marketing communications.”
Davis decided in 2002 to found and fund his own private equity consulting business in San Francisco. In the spirit of sticking his neck out, he named the company “Giraffe.”
The Nebraska native was a double major who earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Nebraska College of Journalism (with an emphasis in advertising studies) and the Department of Sociology.
He later became president of J. Water Thompson’s flagship Chicago office. The agency worked to brand Sears Die Hard and Craftsman products, created the Oscar Mayer Bologna and Hot Dog campaign, and the Kibbles and Bits campaign.
Steve was named Adweek’s Adperson of the year in 1995. Today, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Each of us were designed to serve, not to be served,” Davis said Saturday, as he talked about America’s selfie culture.
“Did you know there are over 2 billion Facebook users, who on average, spend over an hour a day on the site,” he said. “He or she checks her Facebook account, again on average, 47 times a day. How much of this truly connects us? How much separates us?”
Davis encouraged students to practice gratitude and set goals for their lives.
“Be uncommonly grateful,” he said. “It seems to be that, in spite of our collecting blessings and successes in this great country, we tend to be short on gratitude. I saw this time and again in my career.”
Davis believes gratitude is a habit one can cultivate instead of “some magnificently bestowed character of greatness received by a few souls.”
“Habit begins with practice,” he said, challenging the students to begin a daily exercise. “… Take out a blank piece of paper and write down 10 things that you are especially grateful for each day for a month. You’ll be amazed at just how easy it is to reach 300 things you’re grateful for in just a month. And if you aren’t sufficiently grateful now, you’ll be on the road to forming the habit of gratitude to carry through your life.”
To read more about where some of our Meek School of Journalism and New Media students are headed, check out this story.