James E. Dunlap tells graduates to be fearless in taking on the unknown

By Bob Cunningham

Banking executive and community leader James E. Dunlap offered Bowling Green State University graduates keys to success during summer commencement Aug. 6 at the Stroh Center. 

Dunlap is senior executive vice president of Huntington Bancshares Inc., a $73 billion asset regional bank holding company based in Columbus. He also serves as director of regional banking and The Huntington Private Client Group and oversees Huntington’s 10 regional presidents. He attended BGSU, and has been with Huntington, formerly known as Huntington National Bank, for 36 years.

Rodney K. Rogers, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president of BGSU, introduced Dunlap to the August graduating class, which included 965 candidates, and their friends and families. 

“Mr. Dunlap has focused his strategies and the bank’s resources on the promotion of issues and objectives of common interest,” Rogers said of the former Falcon. “He has transformed the company’s presence, significantly improving business performance, the culture and Huntington’s impact in the local communities.

“Mr. Dunlap is a true community leader and has served on boards for Junior Achievement, a convention and visitors bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and the United Way. He has been honored for his leadership and his community service.”

Dunlap offered the crowd some universal advice that never goes out of style, even in the fast-paced world of today. He said communication and vision are vital.

“While the communication revolution certainly continues — and we can send out information faster and more broadly than ever before — when you are trying to inspire people, email and text will not cut it,” he said. “You will find there is no substitute for face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball contact. And it’s not just the words: You have to deliver your message with passion, make people feel what you feel and see what you see. Your great idea will never be great until you make others believe in it — and in you.”

He went on to tell the graduates to keep their message simple, but don’t be afraid to appeal to “the heart and the head.”

“Along with exceptional communication skills, one of the most important things you can take with you into your leadership roles in society is your vision and your values. They must both be very tightly connected.

“So what is vision? It’s your set of beliefs that create a dream, an articulation of a destination and, ultimately, a path of your choosing.”

Dunlap told the graduates they won’t always be successful in their journey, but they will always learn from it, and become stronger from the struggle.  

He also shared his belief system with the crowd:

  • “I believe that everyone can contribute in some way to the betterment of all.”
  • “I believe that partnerships are more important and more powerful than individual efforts alone.”
  • “I believe that while what you do is important, how you do it is even more so.”
  • “And I believe there is a special responsibility, a personal responsibility that comes with living in and ultimately being a leader in our society.”

In closing, Dunlap encouraged the Class of 2016 to be brave in fighting life’s uncertainties.

“It takes great courage to face the unknown in one’s life,” he said. “To put it all on the line and to leave behind the security of familiar surroundings in order to face the challenges of an unknown world. And yet, in order to continue to grow, that is exactly what must be done.”