167th Commencement Ceremony Held
May 11, 2013
ALLIANCE, Ohio — Nearly 500 students participated in the University of Mount Union’s 167th Commencement Ceremony held Saturday, May 11 in the Peterson Field House of the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
International students from Bahamas, China, Georgia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Vietnam were among those graduating from Mount Union, with flags of those nations displayed as part of the graduation regalia.
This year’s Commencement speaker was Matthew Darrah, a 1984 graduate of the University of Mount Union and executive vice president of North American Operations for Enterprise Holdings.
During his speech, Darrah discussed “Setting Yourself Apart in a Competitive Work Environment.”
He told graduates that Enterprise will hire 9,000 college graduates this year. All new hires will go through an orientation and will participate in a question and answer session with Darrah. He is often asked what sets him apart and what has led to his position at Enterprise.
“I am no different than you and I sincerely mean that,” Darrah told graduates. “I was an average student at Mount Union, but I was active and engaged.”
Following graduation from Mount Union, Darrah went to Los Angeles and took as many interviews as he could because he knew repetition would make him better. When he interviewed with Enterprise, he knew it was the perfect fit and took the job. He quickly learned that there were plenty of talented people in the company and wondered how to set himself apart.
Darrah soon realized that all people go through cycles in their careers. At the beginning of a new job, everything is positive and people give everything they have.
“Over time, reality sets in, obstacles creep in and bring you down,” he said. “Slowly, you contribute less and perform at a lower level before eventually getting on track again.”
Darrah realized that he came through those cycles a little differently due to an event that occurred when he was a sophomore at Mount Union – losing his 22-year-old brother to a long battle with cancer.
“I had no idea how to handle it but I decided to use it to make myself better,” he said. “It didn’t make sense to have a bad day. I watched others go through cycles and began to recognize when I wasn’t giving everything I had.”
Darrah said understanding when one is not giving their best is the ‘Holy Grail’ that sets people apart in the workplace.
“If you choose to be aware of the cycles, identify obstacles and choose to get back on track, you will have a profound impact on those you will lead in the future,” he said. “It’s time to go out there, be successful, be special and run toward hard things. Embrace them and own them because that’s where all the opportunities lie.”
Originally from Kent, Ohio, Darrah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Mount Union. He began his journey with Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1984 as a management trainee in southern California. He worked his way up the corporate ladder, reaching positions of group rental manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Connecticut operations in 1990, and then earning the position of vice president/general manager of the Rhode Island operations in 1992.
Darrah was promoted to vice president/general manager in 1996, overseeing Toronto operations where he worked hard to establish Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Canada in a fairly new market. Four years later, he and his family relocated to St. Louis after accepting the position of corporate vice president overseeing Canadian operations.
In 2002, Darrah became the corporate vice president of the northeast region. He obtained the role of senior vice president of North American Operations in 2004 and was again promoted to his current position of executive vice president in 2009.
Darrah is in charge of all operations in both the United States and Canada, which includes approximately 6,000 neighborhood and airport branch offices within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population. He has also played an important role in Enterprise’s efforts for response to consumers, insurance companies, government agencies, catastrophe teams and local utilities following natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.
During the ceremony, the Heaton W. Harris and Corinne Harris Smith Prize was presented to senior Kelly Slutz, a Spanish major of Orrville, OH. The Good Citizenship Award went to senior Alicia Switzer, a communication and psychology major of Strongsville, OH.