Maritime College awards honorary doctorate to utiliVisor president
On May 6, 2022, SUNY Maritime College awarded utiliVisor president Richard Angerame with an honorary doctorate of science for his lasting commitment to the college and to the maritime and business industries.
Listen to Richard's Commencement Address
The following is the text of Angerame's keynote speech.
Thank you, Admiral Alfultis, Dr. Waters, Ms. Bernstein, and members of the faculty. This is a very special moment for me.
It is my distinct honor class of 2022 to stand before you and be included at your commencement. Congratulations to you and your parents! I’m sure this has been a long journey from your Ido (indoctrination) week 4 years ago until today.
My compliments to all of you — you didn’t quit because it was too hard or you lost interest. You saw value in being a graduate of this college, and you achieved your goal. Remember that!
There were colleges you could have gone to that were fun, social, and not too taxing on the brain. But you didn’t take the easy route.
I remember being in your seats out there four times. Once for myself 49 years ago and again when each of my three sons graduated. I’m not sure which journey was the longest, my own or my sons?
But sitting out there, I never had a clue who spoke or what advice they gave us. And as another well-noted commencement speaker once stated, “If I can’t make this memorable, I’ll make it short.”
So I speak from experience when I say that when you reflect on the past four years, you’ll always remember both the good and bad times at Maritime.
As you progress in life, the bad times fade and the stories of the good times get bigger and much better! Just ask my wife, Barbara!
I still have vivid memories of the “brace parties” during Ido week at 2 a.m.; walking fire watches on the 12–4 a.m. watch, with final exams the next day; tracing every little pipe and line in the engine room on cruise so an upperclassman could pass or fail us for the watch; preparing for my coast guard license…
Remember all of those seminar tests you had to pass before you sat for your license? You thought that was a pain. Just wait until it’s time for your annual company performance reviews.
The good news is you are graduating today with a valuable education and set of skills.
The bad news is there are no excuses anymore because you are now in charge of your life — no one else!
One of my happy memories immediately after my sons graduated was clipping up their credit cards and saying, “Gentlemen, this is on you now.”
I’m sure many of you already have a job and are on your way to making a good life for yourself and you will.
My sons did, and I had to beg them to come to work for me 15 years ago, and now they are the best business partners I ever had.
Maritime College has given you the tools to do more than survive in this ever-changing, dynamic world. You have earned sound, practical engineering and deck degrees, a U.S. coast guard operating license, invaluable leadership and teamwork skills from the regiment, and the meaning of respect and responsibility.
You have the most cost-effective college education compared with the majority of all college graduates today, so be very grateful!
But it is up to you to make your mark on the world.
Today you leave a comfortable, well-structured environment, without your parents or your instructors looking over your shoulder. And guess what? The future is all up to you!
Wow, think about that!
Let’s take a moment to analyze what that really means.
You are now entering the unknown, which is scary but also exciting. You want to do something meaningful, something that makes a real difference.
I’m here today to tell you that you can influence change and make the world a better place to live by bringing your knowledge, experience, and passion with you wherever you go next.
On the journey of life, I have a set of “rules of the road” that I live by — even though I wasn’t a deckie — and I want to share them with you.
My "Rules of the Road"
Here are my 10 rules for success:
1. Have meaningful goals in your life starting today.
You can stretch them out but you have to be committed. Goals can always be adjusted, and hopefully increased.
Remember the simple goals you learned at Maritime, like making your bed, squaring the corners, and being 15 minutes early to every appointment. And as you master the simpler goals, keep raising the bar. If you can’t do the easy ones, you can’t do the more difficult ones.
And don’t be led by the dollar. Find something that makes your career fun and satisfying so you’re not working just to make money. The money comes, and I mean big money if you allow it to.
2. After today, no one cares whether you graduated 1st or 85th in your class.
The question on people’s minds for the rest of your life is not what your class standing was but can you do the job technically, do it in a timely manner, and make money for the company.
There’s a difference between being “smart” and “being intelligent.” One of my classmates was on the admiral’s list all four years and I wasn’t. At an alumni gathering he said, “Why did you do so well in business, even though I had the grades?” It’s because I used the skills I learned at Maritime — setting and increasing my goals, investing in myself, and never giving up. So don’t quit and take the easy way out.
3. Don’t blame others for making mistakes and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
But don’t make the same mistake twice. Don’t worry; you won’t run out of new mistakes to make. And remember, you will never be perfect.
4. Always look back where you came from to go forward.
Many times I felt that things didn’t progress as fast as I would have liked. I had a mentor who would always say, “Dick, calm down and look at where you were two years ago.” These words are so true. Make sure you look back at your accomplishments with real perspective.
5. Don’t believe your own BS or anybody else’s.
If you state things often enough, it becomes fact in your mind and you really start believing it. Please don’t hide behind social media. What matters most is to learn to communicate well with other people. That means writing, speaking, and listening, and not ranting. Don’t be a bot; be a person.
6. Treat people with respect, even when life isn’t fair.
This lesson came straight from my worst experience at Maritime.
When I was a student, I got a 50-demerit shot on my first class cruise, which for those who don’t know is nasty, especially for a senior cruise, where life should be great!
A “50 shot” is 50 hours of work in addition to your normal watch standing, class time, maintenance, and repair. That adds substantial pressure to your life, especially during the first class cruise and studying for your license.
What happened was that my team, led by me, left the ship early one day because we completed all the work assigned to us early.
We had the approval of the ship’s chief engineer. But communications were not so good between him and the officer in charge. So I was reprimanded and received demerits for what essentially was a misunderstanding.
So even though I had my superior’s permission, the officer in charge didn’t know that. From his perspective, his decision was appropriate.
Now at the time, I wasn’t such a rational thinker as I am today. But I respected his authority and I didn’t quit. I took total responsibility for my team, took the hit, and accepted being restricted in a European port during the cruise — and performed many of the additional hours of work.
Was it fair? No.
Was I upset in the moment? Absolutely! But it mattered that I showed my superiors and my team that I respected them.
In the end, the situation was cleared up and the shot was reduced. Was I happy with the outcome? No!
But I learned perseverance and what can be accomplished by working with — not against — someone I disagreed with.
Don’t think that customers or employers are any different than officers and instructors. There’s a lot to be gained from knowing how to work with someone you disagree with.
Experiences like that make you stronger and prepare you for life, even though they may be painful at the time.
Lesson learned. Not everything is fair in life, and you must roll with the “punches.”
7. Learn how to manage your money, and don’t spend what you don’t have.
Forget the $10k watch and the new Porsche until you can more than afford it.
8. Today marks the end of your education at Maritime but it shouldn’t be the end of your learning.
Continue your education throughout your life, whether by pursuing additional technical or management degrees at Maritime or another university, or through your own efforts.
Learn the business you are in and surround yourself with people you can absorb knowledge and experience from. I learned to separate those who say they know from those who really know the facts and have a proven success rate. Those who pontificate and have no success stories are misleading people and shouldn’t be trusted.
I tell everyone I received my MBA from the streets of Manhattan and paid dearly for that education. Even with all that formal education, you need to be “street smart” too.
I also recommend you try to find a mentor to bounce ideas off of for both business and personal situations. Finding mentors who really understand your circumstances and goals is key to making not just good decisions but the right decisions at the right time.
9. Success is impossible without hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.
Don’t think you can be home at 5 p.m. every night. Once I had to pick up my son at nursery school and I had to ask my wife where the school was. That’s a funny story to some and not to others. But it’s an example of the teamwork and sacrifices my wife and I made for me to build a business and for us to raise a family.
And as part of building success, you need a “we,” not a “me” mentality. If working on the training ship and being in the regiment taught me anything, it is the value of a team. That ship doesn’t move if everybody doesn’t do their part.
And business is no different. Work with people you trust and know that if the team succeeds, you all succeed. The “I did ” approach to business destroys people, teams, and companies.
And lastly # 10: Be reputable and trustworthy.
Without a good reputation you are nothing, and the business world knows all the “players.”
There are many “games” that people play in the business world where they claim you can accelerate your growth or make more money in a short time frame. Be careful, be skeptical, and use common sense.
Your future engineering and deck opportunities are unlimited, whether you stay on land or at sea. I say that because more than ever before, our world is Interconnected, which brings challenges and opportunities, which are really two sides of the same coin.
Business is global now, and with the need for cleaner energy solutions, sustainability, and carbon reduction, Maritime graduates will have good jobs for life on land or at sea.
But I want you to think bigger than the first or second job after graduation. You have the skills and discipline to go as far as you can dream. The only question is, how far will you let yourself dream?
An area that the admiral and I often discuss often is that not enough Maritime graduates rise to become C-suite executives, the ones who call the shots. There should be more graduates with your backgrounds who become CEOs, COOs, and SVPs of utilities, commercial real estate, and industrial and shipping companies. The world needs your combination of “gutsy” confidence and experience building teams developing and following through with goals.
Then there is a percentage of you who are entrepreneurial like me and can’t work for others. I hope you recognize that independent streak for what it is: a strength, not a shortcoming. You’ll start your own companies, and the world will benefit from your vision and your drive.
I started my first company with another Maritime graduate and the help of a Maritime professor at the ripe old age of 28. We patented controls for chiller plants; and with the help of another professor, we sold the company to an English investment bank, which eventually worked out great for us but not for them.
So was it a straight path from graduation to a profitable business owner? Not at all! A lot of pain went with that, which included long hours, weeks without a paycheck, and signing our houses over to another bank for cash flow when our investor ran out of money because of other bad investments.
But I didn’t give up!
I was inexperienced and the investment bank had painted a great picture of how we would be one of the largest energy companies in the U.S. They thought throwing money at companies would buy them immediate growth and market share. Wrong!
They dumped $15 million into this so called “plan.” They didn’t invest in proper leadership and ran out of money, with little to show for it.
At the same time, they were presenting financial forecasts and evaluations to their London board that were quite artistic — and totally inflated, to say the least.
Fortunately, after four years we got our company back, but what an education! Learning how to negotiate, deal with pressure, and how not to run a business was huge for me.
That was the start of utiliVisor, the company my sons and I have today, which I built using skills I learned at Maritime. I reestablished goals, kept learning, my sons technically improved our utiliVisor technology, and together we’ve developed a team to become a national energy advisory firm in metering and central plant monitoring.
It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t, but not quitting is the key to ongoing success.
Being a Maritime graduate is about looking for real problems, analyzing what’s going right and what’s going wrong, and implementing a cost-effective, logical process to correct the issues.
Turns out, that’s also how you build and operate a successful business.
Which is why I know that you have the training to succeed, not only as a deck or an engineering graduate, but also in the C suite to steer any corporation or start your own business.
And to think back, it all started here, four years ago, making your bed, squaring the corners.
Just remember to financially support the school that got you there.
So now the hard part starts because you are entering uncharted waters, but that’s what adventures are — uncharted waters.
To keep going, even when things are tough, you must have vision, passion, the desire to fulfill your dream, and a support system you trust.
You will trip and sometimes fall along the way, but think of those moments as growing pains, not as defeats. Then get back up, figure out why you fell, and go at it a little differently, rather than quitting.
You wouldn’t be sitting in those chairs if you didn’t have the fortitude, courage, and focus you’ll need to succeed
The skills and the knowledge you have gained here at Maritime are the best foundation for a rewarding life and career that I can think of.
You know what hard work is and what teamwork can build. You know what the words honor and respect mean and how to apply them in your daily life, your work, and your community. You are problem solvers, you are creators, and most of all you are achievers!
Today marks the end of one adventure and the start of another.
I am honored to stand in front of you today to accept this degree — and in a few moments — address you as my fellow alumni. I’m so excited, and feel free to reach out to me.
Thank you. And congratulations to the class of 2022!
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