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Convocation Speaker Previews His Message to Graduates

Steve Van Arsdell, Winter 2002 Convocation speaker.Considering today's economic and political situations, graduates are understandably apprehensive about their futures. Fortuitously, the College of Business' speaker for Winter 2002 Convocation, Stephen Van Arsdell, has been in their shoes.

"History and the economy tend to move in cycles," said Van Arsdell optimistically, "Over my career, we've faced many of the uncertainties today's graduates face. This by no means trivializes today's issues, they are significant and difficult. But we've faced difficult issues before."

Van Arsdell, a senior partner at Deloitte & Touche, a professional services firm, received his bachelor's in Accountancy in1972 and a master's in 1973, both from Illinois. He entered the business world when trouble in the Middle East, war, and scandal roiled the world.

"Today's young adults are also graduating at a time of tremendous uncertainty: war could be on the horizon, we have been rocked by scandal after scandal, and everyone is searching for the right way forward," said Van Arsdell prior to his speech, "…but our graduates will be aided by a solid foundation - their education at the University of Illinois College of Business. And that foundation has given them a tremendous intangible - the ability and desire to continue to learn - that will serve them well throughout their lives."

The Extended Illini Family

Van Arsdell plans to tell graduates to pursue their lives with integrity, quality, professionalism and a solid focus on community and family. In defining family, Van Arsdell includes the "Illini family." This comes naturally to Van Arsdell, whose late father Paul not only received three degrees from the College of Business, but also went on to be the first head of the Department of Finance and now has a scholarship named in his honor at Illinois. Van Arsdell's late brother, Paul Jr., also held three Illinois degrees, including a Master's from the College of Business, and has an annual lecture held in his honor at the University's College of Law. Although not an alumnae, Van Arsdell's mother, Sophia, is active in community and college events and is a key member of the Illini family.

True to his beliefs, Van Arsdell has been active with the College since his graduation. He has served on the Professional Advisory Board of the Department of Accountancy, on the College of Business Alumni Association Board of Directors, and on the Dean's Business Council, where he currently chairs the Alumni Relations Committee.

"As an Illini, you're part of one of the greatest teams in world," he said, "Decades from now, the Illini family will be a big part of our graduates' lives, not only with their present Illini friends but with future graduates, faculty members, and staff," he said. "The bond you have with fellow Illini will enrich your lives so I encourage you to get involved and stay involved with your fellow alums."

Decisions and Choices

While Van Arsdell feels his message is important, he does not feel pressure to make any profound statements during his speech.

"I don't know that anything I will say will change their lives, but if I can impart only one message to them, it will be very simple," said Van Arsdell. "Each individual will have the opportunity to make a difference in our world. And in making that difference he or she will be faced with many, often difficult and confusing, decisions and choices - some small and some large. I encourage them to realize the ethical context of the decision or choice being made - to make the decision or choice or in a manner that will stand up to scrutiny; to do the right thing in the right way every time. A tall order, but one that our graduates are capable of filling."

--Christopher Boyce, December 2002