Rowboats, Helicopters, and Convocation

By: Dana Eagle

As a new staff member in the Simon Admissions Office, and new blogger altogether, I was debating a few topics to kick off my blogging career.  At the end of the day, there was only one that really made sense; Convocation. 

Convocation is an annual tradition for new students, faculty, and staff.  It is a fresh start for a new year of opportunity. We were lucky enough this year to have Joseph Abrams, a 1974 graduate of Simon and the co-founder of the internet phenomenon MySpace, as our Convocation speaker. 

Mr. Abrams, during his speech, shared a story with the incoming class about an old man sitting on his porch during the infamous storm known as Hurricane Katrina.  The old man, watching the waters from the flood of the storm rise higher and higher, heard a yell from another man in a rowboat.  The man shouted, “Get in, and I will row you to safety!” And the old man on the porch declined and said, “No, thank you, the Lord will save me.”  As the waters grew higher, the old man went up the second story of his house, and again heard a voice shouting to him from a rowboat in the water, “Get in! I will row you to safety!”  And once again, the old man declined, and said, “No, thank you. The Lord will save me, and I’ll be fine.”  The waters, still rising, forced the old man up to the roof to escape the flood, and a helicopter flew overhead. This time, a voice called out urging the old man to take the assistance or he will surely drown, “Grab on to this ladder, and I will fly you to safety.”  Still, the old man declined and said, “No, thank you…The Lord will save me.”  The waters continued to rise, and the old man indeed drowned.  As he reached heaven he asked, “Why, Lord? Why didn’t you save me? I waited, and I believed.” The Lord replied, “I sent you 2 rowboats and a helicopter!” 

Yes, the story earned a chuckle from the audience, but more importantly a message, and a valuable life lesson was shared.  Mr. Abrams reminded everyone that there will be great opportunities ahead, and rowboats and helicopters are sure to come your way.  You may not recognize them as such at the time, but the best you can do is keep alert, and be willing to explore these opportunities in life as they present themselves. Who knows- one small rowboat may be the beginning of a much larger, and exciting new adventure in life! And while some of us may have many rowboats along the way, and some only a few, it is important to keep in mind that true success is not measured by how many rowboats you encounter, but rather by believing in what you are doing, and doing it well.   Mr. Abrams also pointed out that while new opportunities and beginnings are indeed rewarding, and certainly come with a sense of excitement, accomplishment and pride in their own right, there is no single opportunity more rewarding than the day that you get to be a rowboat for someone else.

Since his MySpace days, Joseph Abrams has gone on to promote a wide variety of new entrepreneurial adventures.  In 2008, he helped take four companies public…in one week.  Abrams also serves as chair of the board of Adex, a member of the Simon School Executive Advisory Committee, and has come back to Simon to deliver a Kalmbach Lecture to students in 2008, which focused on entrepreneurship.  In essence, Abrams is a perfect example of what President Seligman, and Dean Zupan stressed during their own Convocation addresses; Simon is not only a place for lifelong learning, but a place for teamwork, relationship building, and rewarding experiences that extend beyond the classroom.

As a new member of the Simon community, I encourage each of you to take advantage of all that Simon has to offer, to be prepared for, and to seek out those rowboats and helicopters along the way, and to make the most of your time here.  I challenge myself to do the very same.  And, in doing so, know that Simon will provide you with the wisdom, experience, and confidence to offer a hand, or to be a rowboat for someone else in the future.  Welcome, to the class of 2011 and 2012!

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  1. Thank you for sharing this information. The information was very helpful and saved a lot of my time.

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