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New Regent and Nicolet Bank CEO Robert Atwell addresses UW-Green Bay graduates

Regent Robert (Bob Atwell) brought greetings to graduates from the UW System and the UW Board of Regents during the University’s Fall 2018 Commencement Ceremony on December 15. Atwell is the founding CEO of Nicolet National Bank. and has 34 years of experience as a Wisconsin banker. A graduate of Beloit College (’80) and the Yale School of Management (’83), Atwell is a frequent speaker on leadership and community banking, as well as ethics, faith and economics.

He is the first regent from Northeast Wisconsin appointed to the Board since Judy Crain served. The following are his remarks:

Good afternoon. It is a privilege to be here today to share in this special celebration. On behalf of my Regent colleagues and UW System President Ray Cross, let me extend a special welcome to all our students and guests joining us for this celebration.

Many people helped these graduates along their journey, providing support in ways both big and small, seen and unseen. From your families and friends — to school teachers and your professors, academic staff members, and so many others who are part of the UW-Green Bay community. Together, they have all had a stake in your reaching this big day, and we thank them.

Today is about celebrating your future. You have put in years of hard work, and the education you have received — and the experience you have gained along the way — are tremendous assets. Your UW-Green Bay professors have worked hard to provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills, and habits you need to achieve success. Perhaps even more than you know, you are prepared for whatever the future may hold.

Today, you are earning more than a degree. We know the vast majority of you will stay right here in Wisconsin to live, work…raise your families. But whether you stay here in the Midwest or venture out around the globe, you are gaining a place in the wonderful and dynamic community of University of Wisconsin alumni. You are taking your place among some of the world’s most capable and respected citizens. You are taking your place among those UW-Green Bay students and graduates that step in and make a difference.

We live in a changing environment, and UW-Green Bay is a university on the move. This University is a key player in the New North, an increasingly diverse and dynamic region of the state, and UW-Green Bay is leading the way in growing and adapting to meet the demands of the community, state and nation it serves.

In my relatively short time on the Board of Regents, it has already become very clear that UW-Green Bay, now a four-campus University with a 16-county footprint, is vital to serving and enriching the lives of its students and their communities. That connection is absolutely essential to the success of our state.

So, as you move the tassels on your mortar boards from right to left, I would like you to keep in mind another role you take on as a graduate of UW-Green Bay.

I also want to challenge you to carry the entrepreneurial spirit of the university into your work, your family and your neighborhood.

I want to remind you that an entrepreneur is not just someone who starts and runs a business. My urban dictionary says an entrepreneur “gets stuff done.” Pay attention to little things and pay attention to people who don’t seem to be powerful and noteworthy. When you deal with people get outside yourself and think about the needs and emotions of others. I promise that this will make you both happier and more impactful. The key to success in work, in family and in life is to help people become better people.

I want to close with a quote from one of the 20th century’s most dynamic and powerful leaders. Teresa of Calcutta went from Albania to India where she founded Missionaries of Charity. Today the 5,700 sisters operate homes in the poorest cities all over the world caring for the sick and the dying. These are profound words of advice she left us:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway…
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway…
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway…
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway…
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway…
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous and full of contempt; be happy anyway…
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway…
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway…

You see…in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; it was never between you and them anyway.

Graduates, cherish your connection to UW-Green Bay, to Wisconsin, and to your fellow alumni — friends you have made in your time here and those you will meet in the future. These connections are real, they are powerful, and they will stay with you forever.

My fellow Regents, your professors, your Chancellor and everyone who has helped you along your journey could not be more proud of your success.

Congratulations, again, to you and to your families. Go Phoenix!