Lifetime goals: Be successful, happy, significant

Rucci: With a BGSU degree, ‘you can do anything you have the will to do’

"You can do anything you have the will to do. Your horizons in life, both personally and professionally, will be limited only by your vision and your will to pursue that vision.”

Anthony (Tony) Rucci ’72, ’76, ’78 has three degrees from Bowling Green State University, and during a commencement ceremony May 5 at the Stroh Center he bestowed upon the Class of 2017 three wishes: Be successful, happy and significant.

Rucci addressed the Graduate College and the colleges of Health and Human Services, Musical Arts, and Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial/organizational psychology from BGSU. Rucci is now a clinical professor of management in the Fisher School of Business at the Ohio State University and a Distinguished Teaching Professor.

“When President (Mary Ellen) Mazey originally invited me to give some remarks this evening, she explicitly asked that I consider the question ‘What can someone do with a degree from Bowling Green State University?’" Rucci said. “My simple answer? You can do anything you have the will to do. Your horizons in life, both personally and professionally, will be limited only by your vision and your will to pursue that vision.”   

But Rucci also issued fair warning. He said graduates’ degree from BGSU would not not imbue them with any mystical powers; nor would the diploma contain any secret passwords; there is no money-back guarantee; and, “unfortunately, there will be crucibles in your lifetime.”

Before his tenure at Ohio State, Rucci served as an executive officer with three Fortune 100 companies: Cardinal Health, Sears Roebuck and Co. and Baxter International. He has also been on the board of directors of a number of companies, including Sears Canada, Western Auto, and Grupo Carso, a conglomerate of privately held companies in Mexico.

Rucci previously served as dean of the College of Business and a tenured professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He has also taught at a number of universities, including BGSU and the University of Texas, Dallas. He has been widely published, including in the Harvard Business Review and Fortune magazine, and has been cited in major publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine and USA Today. He has served on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Ohio State University Medical Center Strategic Advisory Board and the University of Illinois-Chicago Chancellor’s Advisory Board.

“I’ve come here this evening to try to help,” he told the graduates. “Like the genie from the lamp, I’m here to grant each of you three wishes. Now, before you get too excited, there is a catch, because I get to pick the three wishes, not you. But my three wishes are pretty darn good.   

“My first wish for each of you is to be successful in your lifetime. My second wish is for you to be happy in your lifetime. And my third wish for each of you is to be significant in your lifetime.”

Rucci said to make sure to define success by purpose in life, not prosperity. And, in being happy, don’t be selfish: Choose to be happy. Be significant by making a positive impact on those you you encounter. Be compassionate and treat people with dignity. Help others to achieve their goals in life — it will be returned to you tenfold.

“You can do anything in your lifetime you have the will to do,” but it goes fast.

“I've led an absolutely charmed life,” Rucci said. “I am the first-generation son of an Italian immigrant father. Neither my father nor mother ever finished high school, and like so many other Bowling Green students, I am among the first generation in my extended family to be able to go to college. And yet, I have had opportunities in life I could never have envisioned and I have five beautiful children whom I adore. But no matter how grateful I am, I’m standing here today at the age of 66, trying to figure out where the past 50 years have gone. I was 16 just yesterday. Ladies and gentlemen, it goes by in a heartbeat.”

Rucci maintains an active advising practice at the board and executive leadership levels with several companies, as well as a significant pro bono practice with educational and not-for-profit organizations. He has received recognition from a number of organizations, including the 2015 and 2016 Poets and Quants National Role Model Professor recognition, the 2013 Ohio State University Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2013 Bowling Green State University Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2008 Distinguished Career Executive Award from the National Academy of Management. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources.