Senior Banquet Speech (Bill Ausfahl)


William and Trudy Ausfahl

[Excerpts and highlights of a speech given by Bill Ausfahl at the Big C Senior Student-Athletes Recognition Banquet.] 

Thanks to Kent Brewer for that wonderful introduction. I appreciate it very much as Kent and I went to the same high school (San Ramon) together where we both ran track and cross-country. 

I'm surprised but honored and humbled by this honorary Big C award. Thank you. Both my parents attended Cal as did one of our sons. My Dad ran track under Brutus Hamilton and Al Regan. He also boxed for Coach Ed Nemir. I had a 'cup of coffee' on the track team at Cal as a freshman but quickly realized I couldn't compete at that level. So I became a full-time student. 

I have been a Cal sports fan since I was a little kid and have been to 52 Big Games in a row. So you can see why it is a very pleasant surprise for me to receive this honor. Chris Carpenter, a Big C Board Member and organizer of this event, has asked me to talk about some of the "secrets" to whatever success I may have had in my career as most of you are about to graduate and enter into the workforce. I will do that, but I also want to talk about character and integrity, about how you can make a difference and about never forgetting where you came from.

The first secret (and the only secret) is that there are no "secrets" to achieving success in life after Cal ! It's pretty straightforward stuff. 

In my view, you already possess two of the significant indicators of future success in your career. 

You have had a successful athletic experience at Division 1 school. Secondly, you will receive a degree from what is considered by most to be the world's finest public university. You have succeeded athletically and academically in a challenging public university where you had to be self-reliant, assertive, and independent; qualities which are not quite as critical in a private school where there is much more handholding. 

Tom Brokaw related this story about his two daughters in a speech at a freshman orientation. One of his daughters was attending Stanford; the other was at Cal. He said his daughter at Stanford was like having a singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; his daughter at Cal was like having a drummer for the Grateful Dead! This is a great analogy for the differences between the two schools. 

The Berkeley campus is a difficult place for anyone to survive; particularly when you combine athletics and academics. But you did succeed. Why ? 

To get through this place, you had to employ many skills and traits, including: 

" self-motivation" 
" perseverance " 
" preparation" and
" practice " 
" time-management" 
" multi-tasking " 
" teamwork" and finally
" passion" !! 

All of these skills and traits were not only critical for you to get through Cal, but guess what? They are the same skills and traits you need to be successful in life and you have a leg up on we non-athletes because you have already demonstrated you possess them. So, you should feel pretty good about that. 

At this point, I would like to make a brief comment about character and integrity that ties directly to what I was saying. Your integrity your reputation is the only thing that you will take with you to your grave. So always be honest with yourself and those around you. If you do that, I guarantee it will pay long-term dividends. 

Now I want to talk for a moment about how you can make a difference and guess what? comes back, in my view, largely to the last two skills I mentioned: teamwork and passion. 

Teamwork: Always get the smartest and hardest working people that are the best at what they do to be part of your team. If you're the boss, do your best to make sure they're smarter than you; give them all the rope they need to be successful and ALWAYS take the responsibility but NEVER the credit. I guarantee that you will enjoy success that way in whatever endeavor you choose. 

Passion: In my view, the most important ingredient in being successful is passion. It comes from the heart and you can't fake it. People will see and feel your passion, and believe me, it is the singular trait about you that will position you to make a difference. And, by the way, it's okay to have more than one passion. 

Never forget where you came from. By that I mean never forget your family, friends, your home town, your high school, and, of course, CAL. In other words, your roots. These have all had major impacts on your lives; sometimes a lot more than you realize. Oftentimes, the reminder of your roots will come from within. I must confess to also having an MBA from Stanford and working for the GSB for one year. In my first big game at Stanford, I went not knowing for whom I was going to root. But the emotion and allegiance to CAL came right out of my gut once the game started. 

And at other times the reminder of your roots will come from without. In 1998, I was attending a Final Four basketball game wearing a Stanford hat at the request of a Stanford friend. I was approached by a fraternity brother who said, "Ausfahl, what the hell are you doing wearing that Stanford hat !" 

By never forgetting where you came from also means GIVING BACK to your family, your friends your home town, and to your university, CAL. You may never know what kind of an impact a simple act of giving back can have. I had a friend who recently passed away. When his kids were growing up, he coached all of them. One team had nine players who now coach their own kids and five of them are still playing in an adult league. He was coaching another fourth grade team when he became ill just a couple of months ago. When the team found out about his illness, they came to see him. One player gave my friend a card saying, "Coach John, if it wasn't for you, I would never have played basketball". The point is that you just never know when you will make an impact on someone as a result of giving back. 

Let me tell you another story. After leaving Stanford, I volunteered for about 15 years on their annual fund raising effort as a worker bee. At that point in our young lives raising three sons the only thing my wife and I had to give was our time. But, in retrospect, the passion was not there. After those 15 years, it dawned upon me that I could probably make more of a difference volunteering my time and giving to CAL. The prospect of doing that really excited me. 

Here in Berkeley we have the greatest public university in the world subscribing to the ideal of open access to all qualified high school students in California regardless of race , gender, religion, or economic level ideals to which I personally subscribe. And, Cal had and still has an issue which Stanford does not and that is a MAJOR BUDGETARY PROBLEM! Only 30% of the money to run this campus comes from the state the rest is donated. How could I not get passionate about this and feel that my volunteer efforts at CAL would not make a difference? 

Don't repeat what I did and wait for many years to pass before giving something back to CAL. Begin to think now about how you can share some of your time and future success with this great campus. 

As I said in the beginning, I hope you can see that there really aren't any so-called "secrets" to success. You already possess the skills and traits necessary or you wouldn't be here tonight. Just keep doing what got you here tonight. 

In closing, I would like to share this poem by Bertha T. Bradley (1894)

To the University of California

Sweet Mother, Berkeley by the sea. 
At thy proud name we bend the knee;
We hail thee queen, the hills thy throne.
Thy crown the love thy children own.

Like some clear beacon through the night
Thy splendor floods with radiant light
This golden land. From East and West
Thy children rise and call thee blest. 
Long Live! Long teach each loyal heart
To love and live the better part. 
Long hold thy regnant place and be
Our Mother, Berkeley by the sea. 
Although this was written in '94 (as in 1894 !) it means as much today as it did then. 

I wish each of you much success in the future. It's been a pleasure to be with you tonight. Thank you again for this honor and GO BEARS !!

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