Andrew Crowell, vice chairman of wealth management at brokerage firm D.A. Davidson & Co., spoke to Crowell School of Business graduates at the Spring 2021 commencement. His late parents, Suzanne and Donald Warren Crowell, gave the initial gift for the Crowell School of Business building, which opened in 2007, and the school is named in their honor. Below is a version of the speech he gave to graduates on May 8, 2021, edited for brevity.
If you were to follow the trail of my life, you would see a somewhat windy road. When I came to the Lord in 6th grade through a Fuller Seminary student, I thought that I might pursue a life in youth ministry. Then, having found some success in high school as a pitcher, I thought I would pursue a business degree in college while playing baseball, right up until I ended up in a back brace for a year and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Ministry came back into view as I became a youth leader at my church, mentoring middle school kids. During my junior year at university, I had my focus shifted once again, this time by an interest in international business. I was studying economics while living in France and was certain that my future was working internationally in some capacity, perhaps with a large entertainment firm, so I attended graduate school in London.
However, upon graduation I was unable to obtain a work visa overseas, so I returned stateside in hopes of quickly landing a job with a multinational company and eventually getting transferred back overseas. I ended up at an advertising agency in Pasadena which had a unique clientele, working exclusively for nonprofit organizations like World Vision, Prison Fellowship and Habitat for Humanity. It certainly seemed far afield of what I had envisioned, but it was there that I met the woman who would change my life, Keri. Twenty-nine years and two children later, I can say that “detour” was the best thing that could have happened. I made the jump into finance and wealth management just six months before our son Thomas was born and have remained in that field for the last twenty-six years.
The reason I wanted to take you down my windy road is to tell you this: All along my circuitous career path, I found myself questioning my faith, questioning whether I was really doing what God had called me to do, questioning all of it. I took the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 literally when it says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” So why was my own path so curvy? Was I not trusting in Him? Not submitting to Him? Was I following my will and not His?
Now, with the benefit of hindsight and seeing so many blessings and learning experiences along that windy road, I recognize God’s hand in it. At the time, I couldn’t always see it, certainly didn’t always feel it, but I simply and prayerfully considered what was before me and took steps in faith, believing that if I stumbled or detoured, the Lord would bring me back. God was working on me and developing and transforming and preparing me, and what looked like detours were actually the Lord’s straight path for my life! A paradox for sure, but then again, I’m sure more than one Israelite wondered why the same God who could part the Red Sea also had them wander around in the desert for 40 years. It was Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
So what’s next for you? Perhaps you know exactly. Perhaps you aren’t quite sure. Perhaps you are just confused and even nervous. It’s going to be okay. Jeremiah 29:11 seems appropriate here: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Graduates, you have been through so much over these past four years. You’ve left home and gotten your first taste of independence. You’ve met and made friends from a host of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. You’ve had your beliefs challenged and shaken and hopefully strengthened. You’ve learned new skills and acquired lots and lots of knowledge. And in the past 15 months you’ve been challenged and stretched yet further as Covid disrupted and changed so much of how we study, how we learn, how we work and how we socialize. Yet you didn’t just survive; that you are here today means you overcame! We are so proud of you, and your resilience and persistence and faith and optimism are what give us hope as we look out to you, the leaders of tomorrow.
You are launching out into the local and global community at the very same time that the world itself is in the process of reopening. My exhortation to you is this: Even if the world is operating at reduced capacity, I encourage you to go all-in, 100%. Even if the world is wearing masks, don’t hide behind yours. As you go out into the world, even if you have to socially distance, don’t be emotionally distant. Be fully committed, fully transparent. Let your light shine! As Colossians 3:23 exhorts, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."
Graduates of 2021, you are ready. You are professionals with a mind for business but also a heart for Christ. So go, and use both to change the world. This is your time. The marketplace and business community await, and they need what you have. They need your knowledge and creativity and entrepreneurship, but more than anything, they need your Savior. They need you to bring the light of Christ with you along all the twists and turns of your career path. Jesus was the greatest disrupter in all of human history. He commissioned a group of twelve ordinary people from modest backgrounds and changed the world. That same Lord is now commissioning you, graduates of 2021. Go out and be disrupters. Change the world. God bless you as you go. You got this, 2021!
Mr. Crowell’s remarks have been edited for length and clarity.
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