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Communications and Marketing

Chicago Tribune covers Ricketts’ Commencement address

Commencement speaker Tom Ricketts, Chicago Cubs chairman, delivered a media-worthy address at Ravinia Festival Park on May 13.

A reporter and photographer from the Chicago Tribune was among the thousands in the pavilion at Ravinia. Here is the complete story:

Relationships are more important than money, Ricketts tells Lake Forest College grads

By Lee V. Gaines  |  Chicago Tribune

Chicago Cubs co-owner Tom Ricketts said during a commencement speech Saturday at Lake Forest College that while the stress of Game 7 in last year’s World Series“nearly killed me,” his life is more fulfilled now because he made good on a promise to do what he could to help lead the team to a championship.

“(I am) one of a few lucky people on the planet who really got to accomplish a goal and live a dream,” he said, pointing to his World Series ring. He added that while having a good career is a great, “being on a quest is truly incredible, and particularly if you are on that quest with people you respect and admire.”

The Cubs chairman punctuated his humor-driven address with a few pieces of advice – most of which he attributed to Cubs coach Joe Maddon – for the hundreds of graduates and their families who gathered at Ravinia Festival Park in Highland Park for the college’s 139th commencement ceremony.

The crowd greeted Ricketts, a Wilmette resident, with a huge round of applause.

While introducing Ricketts, Lake Forest College President Stephen Schutt said last October was “a magical month” for students and faculty alike as they watched the Cubs win the World Series after a 108-year drought. Ricketts, who is also chief executive officer of Incapital, LLC, a Chicago investment bank, was awarded an honorary degree from the college following his address.

“You guys spent four years working all the time to get a bachelor’s degree, and I get to be a doctor for just finishing this speech,” Ricketts told the graduates.

On a more serious note, Ricketts said, when his family bought the Cubs in 2009, the team wasn’t prepared for success and the organization faced a “bleak situation.”

Under his family’s ownership, the organization hired Theo Epstein, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, as the team’s president of baseball operations and switched to long-term rather than short-term planning. And once the plan was in place, Ricketts said they committed to it.

“It wasn’t easy, but we hung together,” he said.

On his first day coaching in Chicago, Ricketts said Maddon coined the phrase “never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” Ricketts told the graduates to find something they love to do, because they won’t be great at something if they don’t enjoy doing it.

Early in spring training last year, he said, Maddon told the players to “do simple better.” For Ricketts, this bit of wisdom was a reminder that “happiness is pretty simple”: money is not the ticket to a happy life, and what really matters is love.

“With enough money, you can certainly choose your own form of misery, but it is misery nonetheless,” Ricketts said. “Without good friends and close family to share those successes with, your accomplishments will really have no meaning.”

He said Maddon’s most famous phrase from last year is advice he gave in jest to a young player - “try not to suck.” Ricketts said he thinks about this phrase “in the context of how you treat people in your life.” While the first half of a career is defined by professional accomplishments, the second half of someone’s working life is often defined by the relationships they cultivated – and success then will depend largely on how well they worked with others and made people want to work with them, he said.

“The people around you will choose to be with you on a project, a goal, or not, and they will either help you succeed or not,” he said. “And no one accomplishes a great task on their own.”