Alec Gordon’s grad speech: Pivot and persevere—the class of ’22 is the class of resilience

  • May 23, 2022
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

Alec Gordon, BSBA ’22, was the student speaker at the undergraduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 19, 2022, selected by his peers. Here is what he had to say to his fellow graduates.

To the Olin Business School Class of 2022, Dean Taylor, Olin faculty, family members, and other esteemed guests, good afternoon! I’m Alec Gordon, and I’m honored to have been chosen as the student speaker for the 2022 Olin Business School graduating class. This graduating class is very different from most of the classes that preceded us: We’ve endured a global pandemic, lost internships and job opportunities, even lost on-campus housing (I’m sure you all remember the Hunger Games search for housing in August 2020), and now I’m asking you to sit through a five-minute speech from that talkative kid from South Florida. Sorry about that last one!

Let me take you back to March 11, 2020. It was WashU’s spring break! If you were like me, you were surrounded by bathing suits, sunglasses and a whole lot of something called Natural Light. We flocked to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Panama City Beach, Florida. But suddenly, it was all gone. The COVID-19 pandemic had arrived. The world was turned upside down and we felt lost. This was not the college experience that any of us had envisioned.

Personally, my sports immersion trip to Los Angeles was canceled, I lost an in-person job with the Vegas Golden Knights (remember what it was like to work IN PERSON?), the chance to study abroad in Copenhagen, my on-campus housing for my junior year, and my Birthright trip to Israel. And I know that many of you have experienced much greater loss. We’ve been forced to pivot and persevere through the ups and downs of the past two years. 

If you know anything about me, you know I love sports, especially professional hockey, from my beloved hometown team, the Florida Panthers, to my adopted team, the St. Louis Blues. Our freshman year, the Blues were in last place in the NHL on January 3. Only four days later, a new goalie joined the team for his first NHL start, Jordan Binnington. Flash forward five months later and the Blues won their FIRST EVER Stanley Cup championship. The Blues’ Cup run was a story of perseverance through hardships and challenges. The Olin Class of 2022 faced its own challenges.

We adapted to Zoom school, Canvas tests, and uncertainty regarding our future education. We followed mask mandates, testing protocols, and adhered to social distancing guidelines in the classroom. But we were undeterred. Nothing would stop us from continually excelling in and out of the classroom.

Stronger than ever, prepared for what’s next

So if the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s how to pivot and persevere. We are a class of resilience! We have battled through much to make it here today. We’ve been challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. And yet here we are, stronger than ever, ready to step forward into whatever comes next.

There are many people in the crowd who I must thank. Firstly, thank you to my friends, girlfriend, classmates, professors, advisor and career coach for your help and guidance during my time at WashU. In particular, I’d like to thank Dr. Patrick Rishe for welcoming me with open arms into the world of sports business. From minoring in the business of sports, countless TA grading sessions, case projects, networking and career help, and friendly hockey banter, I’m so grateful to have such a caring mentor in my life. Even when you texted me after the Miami Heat lost the 2020 NBA Championship and said, “Well the Heat lost.” I’m thankful for our relationship, especially your selflessness and eagerness to help.

And a special thank you to my parents and my sister, a rising WashU sophomore. Thank you for supporting me in so many ways over the past four years, but especially over the first 22 years of my life. I would not be a fraction of the person I am standing before you today without your love, support and motivation.

‘Three important things in life’

Legendary college basketball coach Jimmy Valvano said in his memorable 1993 ESPYs speech that there are three important things in life: “Where you started, where you are and where you’re going to be.” We don’t know exactly what the future holds and we barely know where we are now. But we certainly know the amount of adversity we have faced to make it here today. The students around you are not the same people that stepped on campus in August 2018, the students who scoffed at a bar being called “Big Daddy’s” and laughed when they saw their Calc 2 midterm class average was a 58…a new record high. We are an incredible group of people – students who will become leaders in business, students who will change our world for the better, and students like me, who will one day, star in their men’s over 40 basketball league!

The pandemic provided many of us with a chance to re-organize our priorities and pursue our interests. Through remote internships, community involvement, and independent passion projects, our future is as bright as ever. We are courageous, confident, and accomplished individuals, and I’m so excited to see what this class has in store for the future. From here, we’ll go our separate ways, but we will forever cherish our time at WashU. We’ve always known our names, but our stories are still being written. 

Thank you and GO BEARS!!

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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