Congratulations Patty B!

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Yesterday was a big day for our youngest son, Patrick.

Patrick has Williams Syndrome (WS), a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone.  It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.

May is Williams Syndrome Awareness Month, and many local chapters sponsor walks around the country to help raise money and awareness for WS.

Our local walk, the Wayne Walk for Williams, took place yesterday, and it was an educational and joyful event for all those who attended. This is only the second year for the Wayne Walk, and thanks to the incredible efforts of the organizers, it has become the second biggest walk in the country. Special thanks to Jenny Knox and Melissa Murphy for their organizing and fundraising efforts, to Terry Monkaba, Executive Director of the Williams Syndrome Association who flew in from Michigan to be at the Wayne Walk, to John Boruk for serving as the emcee, and to the many corporate sponsors.

As part of the event, the organizers wanted to recognize an adult who has successfully overcome the challenges associated with WS, and is making a difference in the local community. We were honored that our son Patrick was chosen for the award.

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Plaque given to Pat

Pat is 25 years old, and a remarkable young man (I know I am biased, but he really is).

Pat was diagnosed with WS at about two years old, and we were fortunate to have the diagnosis at such an early age. This enabled us to start him in early intervention programs, and such programs made a big difference in Pat’s development.

He then started kindergarten at the local public school (Radnor Township School District) and once again we were blessed with a highly supportive network of teachers, administrators, specialists, and students. Pat was mainstreamed since day one, and had a full-time aide assigned to him from kindergarten through high school. We can’t say enough good things about how much support the Radnor school system gave Pat, and how positive all of his Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meetings were.

Pat has also participated for several years in a research study led by Dr. Barbara Landau at Johns Hopkins University that looks at the language and spatial development of individuals with Williams Syndrome.

Once Pat finished high school, he then enrolled at Delaware County Community College (Delco). Pat enjoyed his time at Delco, but after about a year’s worth of courses had the opportunity to start a full-time job at the local movie theater.

Pat loved his time at the movie theater, making many friends and learning how to do all the various tasks required of movie theater personnel, selling tickets, working the concession stand, cleaning the theater (somehow that did not translate to cleaning at home), and whatever other jobs he was asked to do.

Pat was ready to move on after three years at the theater, wanting to try something different.

Once again, he was fortunate to find a job in a relatively short time period, working at the campus bookstore at Villanova. He has been working there for about four months now, and he seems to love the job. He likes the people he works with, and he enjoys the interaction with the college students. It certainly worked out well for us, since it is less than a mile from our house, and it’s where I teach!

Outside of work, Pat has the same interests as most 25-year olds. Music (all types), video games, bowling, mini golf, skiing, traveling (he’s been to Hawaii a few times, and even traveled there all by himself from Philadelphia), reading, and just chillin’.

Pat is fortunate to have great support from family, friends, and neighbors. His two older brothers have been great to him, and have probably had more influence on the wonderful young man that Pat is today than anyone else. He has lots of awesome cousins, aunts, uncles, and his Mom Mom and Great Aunt who have always been there to support Pat in his endeavors. Our neighbors have been fantastic, and are proof that it takes a village to raise a child. And Pat has many friends, some of them since kindergarten, who helped Pat to navigate those difficult school years. We are grateful for all the kindness these people have shown to Pat over the years.

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Nik (friend since 2nd grade), oldest brother James, Pat

My wife and I are quite proud of all that Pat has accomplished, and the joy that he brings into our life. It has been a wonderful 25 years, and we look forward to all the amazing things he will accomplish in the next 25 years.

To quote from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go”:

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way! 

Congratulations on the award – we love you Pat!

P.S. Here is a short two-minute clip of Pat receiving the award.

The 7 Lessons I Learned at Graduation

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I wrote yesterday about how wonderful Villanova’s graduation was this weekend.

After writing the post, I reflected a bit more on the experience, and realized there were some valuable lessons I learned that I would like to share with you.

  1. The value of being in the moment. As our students lined up to go on stage, one of the women who works in the office of undergraduate studies was adjusting each student’s hood to make sure it looked just right for the big moment. Many of the students would take the time to say “thank you” to the woman, while other students seemed to not even be aware that this woman was doing this for them. I don’t think it was issue of good or bad manners, since we are blessed with the nicest students in the world. I think it came down to the fact that some of the students were fully in the moment, aware of and enjoying everything that was going on, while other students were distracted, with too many things running through their minds. The result was that many students made a favorable impression on me because of a simple “thank you”, made possible by being in the moment. Another example of the benefit of being in the moment came from our student speaker. I am sure he had practiced his speech dozens of times, and probably was hoping to just go up on stage and deliver his speech. However, he started his speech by making a reference to an awkward event that had just taken place moments ago while our Dean was talking. The result of going off script was getting a good laugh from the audience, which likely put him at ease, and then he went on to deliver a wonderful commencement speech.
  2. You are who you associate with. As part of our graduation ceremony, as each student’s name is read, it is also announced whether they graduated summa cum laude (highest honors), magna cum laude (high honors), or cum laude (honors). They all represent a significant accomplishment, but as you might imagine, there were not many students who graduated summa cum laude. My vague recollection is that perhaps 20 out of 500 students earned such recognition. However, what was striking was that it seemed that when one summa cum laude student’s name was read, it seemed to be followed by another summa cum laude graduate. Since the students get to sit wherever they want, they obviously choose to sit with the students they know best. And the fact that the summa cum laude graduates tended to sit with each other seemed to offer some validation of Jim Rohn’s idea that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you want to graduate summa cum laude, find someone else with the same goal.
  3. The value of just showing up. Faculty who skip graduation probably don’t know what a great experience it is. While attending graduation is supposed to be mandatory for faculty, there is a significant number who do not show up. While some of them have legitimate reasons for missing the ceremony, other faculty simply choose not to go, and that is unfortunate. To me, not only does it show lack of respect for our students, but these faculty members miss out on one of the best events of the school year. As I wrote yesterday, there’s something about all of the pomp and circumstance, and the smiles on the faces of the grads and their families, that make graduation a memorable experience. Plus, all the faculty have to do is just show up, no other responsibilities, yet it can make a big difference.
  4. I’ve got to up my game. As I sat and listened to the introductions of our Honorary Doctorate recipients, I was amazed at what they have accomplished. It made me realize there’s a lot more I could be doing to make a difference. My hope is that being aware of what is possible is the first step in actually making a difference.
  5. I’m getting old. As I stopped to shake hands and congratulate one of my students, his dad reached out and said, “You taught me Advanced Accounting in my senior year.” So now it’s gone full circle, I’m teaching the children of my former students. I remember when I first started teaching at Villanova in 1986, one of the older faculty members put it to me this way, “When I first started teaching, I found the students attractive. As I got older, it was their mothers I found attractive, and now, it’s their grandmothers.” And now I realize the truth in what he told me; while the students I have taught for almost 30 years are always 18-22 years old, I keep getting older each year.
  6. Clean up after yourself. It was a fairly warm day yesterday for our graduation, and the University had provided lots of bottled water for everyone to have. As the ceremony ended and we were walking out, I was amazed at how many water bottles I saw just laying on the ground next to where the faculty were sitting. I think the faculty should hold themselves to a higher standard, and be good role models for the students. Just like Jay Wright.
  7. It takes a village, There’s a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure a successful graduation, and in connection with the first lesson above, I just want to offer my thanks to all those individuals. The graduation planning committee, facilities management, groundskeeping, security, dining services, administrative support staff, and countless others have worked hard over the past few weeks and months to put together another memorable experience for our graduates. While the focus at graduation is on the students, as it should be, and the faculty are prominently on display in their caps and gowns, I fully realize and appreciate that none of it would be possible without a total team effort. It really does take a village to help a student graduate.

Congratulations Graduates!

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It was graduation weekend at Villanova the past two days, one of my favorite weekends of the year.

It’s great to see students celebrating the results of four years of hard work with their fellow classmates, friends, and family.

The speakers were inspiring, headlined by the commencement talk given by Madeline Bell, 1983 graduate of Villanova’s College of Nursing. Ms. Bell is currently the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and was just appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer effective July 1.

It’s always a pleasure meeting the parents of the students I have taught; the pride they have in their children is obvious, as well as the gratitude they have for those who have helped their children to achieve such a milestone.

It’s invigorating to see these young adults, full of knowledge and ambition, ready to take on the challenge of making a difference in the world.

Villanova is a better place for you having been here, and I wish you a life filled with purpose, passion, and happiness.

Ignite change, go Nova.

Slow Down

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The Amtrak train derailment this week was truly tragic.

While we do not why the train was going so fast, it seems apparent that excessive speed was to blame for the accident.

Many people seem quick to place the blame on the engineer, before a full investigation has been completed.

What I find interesting is the likelihood that many of these same people may be guilty of what they are accusing the engineer of, operating a vehicle well above the speed limit.

I was driving home from the New Jersey shore yesterday, and as a very non-scientific experiment I decided to count either the number of cars that passed me, or that I passed, until I got to a total count of 50. The speed limits ranged from 45 to 65 during the course of the experiment, and I set my cruise control where I usually set it, at 7 miles above the speed limit.

The results were astonishing – 49 cars passed me, and I passed one!

It was particularly interesting what happened when the speed limit changed from 55 to 45 because of construction. Within less than 90 seconds, 16 cars had passed me. The signs indicating the decreased speed were quite obvious, and quite frequent.

The results of my experiment were pretty clear. People drive way too fast, and ignore the posted speed limits.

While I don’t think anyone was going more than double the speed limit, as the Amtrak train was, there seemed to be drivers going about 70 mph in the 45 mph zone. And this is where there are people working on the side of the road!

Plus, since you have cars going various speeds, the faster drivers are required to weave in and out of traffic, creating dangerous situations not only for themselves and their passengers, but for the other drivers, and workers, on the road.

Earlier this month a driver was killed and four construction workers were injured, two seriously, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan states, “This is a horrific trend, and it needs to stop now. Too many construction workers were sent to the hospital this week, and too many lives shattered. Though the cause of this morning’s disaster hasn’t yet been confirmed, experience tells us that speed and distraction are likely to blame.”

So I think if there is one lesson we can all learn from such tragedies is to slow down, no matter what kind of vehicle you are driving. Speed limits are there for a reason – they save lives.

My thoughts go out to all those affected by these tragedies.

How Would You Prefer to Get 1,000 Calories?

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I heard on the news today that Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s will have a new item on their menu starting May 20. The new item will be known as “The Most American Thickburger“.

Here is a description of the sandwich:

“… a beef patty topped with a split hot dog, Lay’s kettle-cooked potato chips, ketchup, mustard, tomato, red onion, pickles and American cheese. All of this inside a hamburger bun.”

To paraphrase from the Jake from State Farm commercial, it sounds hideous.

The Most American Thickburger packs a whopping 1,030 calories, 64 grams of fat, and 2,350 mg. of sodium. The price is expected to be $5.79.

Let’s compare this sandwich to what some people consider nature’s perfect food, the banana. One banana has about 100 calories, with 0.4 grams of fat and 1 mg. of sodium. So to get 1,000 calories, you would need to eat 10 bananas, giving you a total of 4 grams of fat and 10 mg. of sodium. I just bought some organic bananas today for about 30 cents each, so 10 bananas would have cost me about $3.00.

Banana

So for half the price of a Thickburger, you can get a much more nutritious meal (or really the equivalent of almost two meals since they are both about 1,000 calories). So much for those claims that eating healthy, organic food is expensive. Plus think of all the money you’ll save in medical bills as well by eating the bananas.

After hearing about the Thickburger, I decided to do a check of other unhealthy menu items. The Center for Science in the Public Interest puts out a list each year of the 10 worst menu items it has found. Here are a couple of highlights from the list:

Uno Chicago Grill’s Deep Dish Macaroni & 3-Cheese hits 1,980 calories (a day’s worth), 71 grams of saturated fat (3 1/2 days’ worth) and 3,110 mg of sodium (2 days’ worth). It’s like eating a Family Size box of Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese (serves five) with a stick of butter on top.

Cheesecake Factory’s Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake weighs in at three-quarters of a pound. What do you get for all that heft? Just 1,900 calories and 3 days’ worth of saturated fat (62 grams).

If you can stomach reading the rest of the list, here is the link.

It looks like the Most American Thickburger is poised to make it on to this top 10 list in its first year, but I don’t think any of the companies are proud of such a dubious distinction.

And if you decide to try one of these items, I don’t think you should be bragging about it either.

To your health,

GO VEGAN!

Commercial of the Week: Apple’s Think Different

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The Apple Think Different commercial from 1997 has long been a favorite of mine.

The most recent book about Steve Jobs, “Becoming Steve Jobs” offers some background info on the ad, and notes that another version of the commercial was made with Jobs himself doing the voice-over. That was the version that was planned to be released, but Jobs decided that if the commercial used his voice then the focus might be more on him and not the message of the ad. The alternative version (the one shown above), with Richard Dreyfus, is the one that was aired.

Here is a copy of the one with Jobs, and I think you will agree that the Dreyfus one is much better.

If you are curious who the people are in the commercial, here is the list in order of appearance:

Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon (with Yoko Ono), Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson (with Kermit the Frog), Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso. The commercial ends with an image of a young girl opening her closed eyes, as if making a wish. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Here is the full text of the ad:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

(Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?)

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The paragraph in parentheses was not part of the TV commercial, but it was part of the print ad. The words still get to me, just as much as the closing words, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish“, in Jobs’s classic commencement speech at Stanford.

If the commercial were remade today, then Jobs should certainly be added to those featured. After reading the latest book about Jobs, I am convinced that Jobs really did want to change the world, and he did it by thinking different.

Another Frivolous Lawsuit?

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A University nursing student who twice failed to pass a required course has filed a federal lawsuit against the institution alleging she “broke down and wept more than once” during a final exam because her professor didn’t do enough to help her.

The student began her nursing program in 2010 with an existing predisposition that caused anxiety and depression, and throughout her time at the university she “experienced great anxiety as a result of her many challenges, both socially and academically, as well as medical issues with her family,” the lawsuit contends.

Her lawyer also noted that she struggled throughout the program, but appeared to be making progress towards her nursing degree, although with primarily below average grades.

In the spring of 2014, the student failed Functional Health Patterns of Adults IV, a required course that nursing students must pass with at least a C. She then took the course again that summer.

For the final exam that summer, the student was given some accommodations — she was allowed more time to complete the test and could take it in a “distraction-free environment,” according to the suit. The teacher also offered to allow her to ask questions during the test, the complaint says.

However, during the test, the student repeatedly called the teacher on her cellphone and got no response. Her lawyer states that the teacher’s failure to be available to during the examination created an even more stressful environment for the student, leading her to break down and cry.

In the end, the student did not receive a sufficient score to pass the course and graduate with a nursing degree.

The student filed suit this month alleging the University — along with the school President, the chairwoman of the nursing department, and the nursing professor — violated the Federal Rehabilitation Act and should be liable for unspecified damages in excess of $75,000.

There’s a few issues here.

First, I cannot imagine a teacher not doing whatever they can to help accommodate a student who has special needs, while still maintaining the integrity of the learning process.

Second, students need to do some personal reflection occasionally and ask themselves if what they are studying best matches their strengths. If this student already has anxiety and depression issues, and is earning below average grades in nursing courses, should she really be pursuing a nursing degree?

I would imagine the stress of actually being a nurse is greater than the stress of studying to be a nurse, and I doubt that her employer would be able to give her any accommodations that would be more helpful than what she received during college.

I also can’t imagine how difficult the national nursing licensing exam would likely be for this student, and the tremendous amount of stress that is going to cause her.

The college also needs to accept some responsibility (which they may have). With all of the data analytics that are available these days, I am sure it would be easy enough for college administrators to get periodic reports on struggling students. The college should offer counseling to such students, in the form of suggesting other majors, or setting periodic goals that the student must meet.

Perhaps the nursing program could set minimum GPA guidelines that need to be met each semester, and if they are not, then a student is put on probation. If the student does not get his or her grades above the minimum, then he or she can no longer be enrolled in that particular program.

Again, it may be that the college in question is already has such counseling and support programs in place.

But at the end of the day, at least based on what I have read so far, this is another case of someone not taking personal responsibility for their actions and performance.

I am not questioning the student’s work ethic; I assume that she is working as hard as she can, but maybe she’s just not working smart.

I understand wanting to pursue a dream, but if such pursuit is causing anxiety and depression, then you may need to look for other ways to achieve your dream. There are likely many options available to her if she wants to work in health care – perhaps as a CNA or a technician – that would not be as stressful as a nurse, but could still give the same sense of helping others.

I wish her the best, but I also hope that she drops her lawsuit. It’s time to move on.

(General) Doolittle Did a Lot, and So Have Many Others

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This is the eighth in a collection of newspaper ads from United Technologies that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. The link to the original ad is at the end of this post.

The ad is a tribute to General Jimmy Doolittle who at the time was promoted by Congress to the rank of full 4-star General (O-10) on the U.S. Air Force retired list.

I must admit when I went back to read this particular ad from 1985, I did not know who General Doolittle was. Names like Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArthur easily come to mind when I think of heroes of World War II, but Doolittle’s name did not ring a bell.

According to Wikipedia, Doolittle was an American aviation pioneer. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor and leadership as commander of the Doolittle Raid while a Lieutenant Colonel.

As I read through what he accomplished, I realized what an amazing man Doolittle was, and just as important to America’s success in the war as the previously mentioned men.

And so it made me wonder about other people who have accomplished great things, but may not be as well known for their efforts as others.

I am currently reading “Becoming Steve Jobs”, another fascinating look at one of my heroes. However, the book also looks at other people who were just as critical in helping Apple stage its amazing comeback in the late 1990s. For example, have you ever heard of Fred Anderson?

Fred became the CFO at Apple in the mid-1990s, and had primary responsibility for getting Apple on stable financial footing. Doing so enabled the company to begin executing on its strategic plan. Without that stability, it is likely Apple would have never survived those difficult times.

Another example I recall was being at the funeral for a father of one of my friends. As I listened to the eulogy, I was amazed at how much this person had accomplished, and I had no idea about any of it.

I’m slowly learning that everyone has a story, and the better I can learn and acknowledge such stories, the richer my life will be.

Here is the United Technologies ad that inspired this post.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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I’ve been blessed knowing many great women in my life; my mom, my two sisters, my aunt, teachers, friends, and best of all, my wife.

All of them have played a key role in my life, and for that I am grateful.

I am glad that there is a day meant to honor them, and so I just want to take a moment to wish all of them a Happy Mothers’ Day.

By the way, as I wrote about previously, I’m not sure if that is a picture of a rose or a carnation

Reader Comments and Questions

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It’s been a while since I’ve answered reader’s emails, and as a result they have really piled up. I’ll try to answer a few here that may be of most interest to my readers, and I apologize if I cannot respond to your email personally.


Dear Blogger,
Heplo everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this website, and post is really fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting such articles. Also visit my homepage:
Most greatfully, Dmitri

Dear Dmitri,
Thank you for your words kind and for your encouragement me. I’m glad you found the post about personality types fruitful in favor of you.


Dearest Jim,

It was great seeing you today! I was hoping you could do me a favor. Would you be able to give a shout out to my new movie that comes out this week?
Sincerely, Anna K. (Pitch Perfect 2)

Dearest Anna,
No problem. I can’t say enough good things about your new movie; I know it will be another big hit, and I encourage all of my readers to go see it later this week. And thanks again for inviting my wife and I to the premiere, we had a great time!


Dear Borden,
The intruder was “tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. I learnt to identity the symptoms of the “psychic flu” several decades ago. The developer announced on Friday that they reached the milestone number last month.
Signed, Chris Brown

Dear Chris, Are you drunk texting again?


Dear Jim,

Seth Godin and I were hoping that you could give a brief talk at our upcoming conference that will focus on how to successfully blog on a daily basis. We thought we could use your blog as an example of how not to do things.
Signed, Fred Wilson

Dear Fred (and Seth),
I would be honored to do so. I also want to make you aware that I give seminars on “How Not to Run a Personal Training Studio”,”How to Attract a Massive Twitter Following“, or “How to Put a Group of High Energy College Students to Sleep in Less Than 10 Minutes” (hint – it’s got something to do with accounting). Please let me know if you would be interested in any of these other topics.