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Richard Smucker, standout CBA graduates share their stories


More than 350 incoming Honors College students listened intently as Richard Smucker, CEO of The J.M. Smucker Company, spoke August 22 during the special executive session and capstone event of the 2013 Honors Leadership Summit.

Designed to challenge students to think beyond their majors and to set themselves on a path to success, the Summit was headlined by Smucker and featured an all-star cast of CBA graduates who returned to campus – one each week beginning July 26 – to inspire students.

Richard Smucker delivered the keynote address at the 2013 Honors Leadership Summit.

Invited to deliver the keynote address, Smucker spoke on the topic of wise and ethical leadership – a core value of his family’s Orville, Ohio-based company.

In 2012, in fact, The J.M. Smucker Company, a longtime partner and friend of The University of Akron with a long history of employing UA graduates, donated $1 million to establish an Institute for Leadership Advancement within the College of Business Administration. The institute promotes the development of leaders with the unique combination of knowledge, skills, and principles needed to help them make an impact on their organizations early in their careers. The Institute guides students through a process of personal identity development, progresses into team-process and team-leadership skills, and then challenges students to apply each of these in different contexts where the rules may change.

Prior to hearing from Smucker, incoming Honors College students were inspired by stories from these successful CBA graduates:

  • Aniqa Feerasta, who encouraged students to “take risks.” Feerasta earned degrees in economics and business administration in 2010. Since then, she has worked locally and abroad in Afghanistan and today is a site merchandiser for in Seattle.
  • Mike Honeck, a 2009 accounting major who went on to earn a master of entertainment technology degree at Carnegie Mellon in 2011. “Don’t be afraid to ignore your major,” he urged students. Honeck is employed as a Walt Disney Imagineer, developing rides and attractions at theme parks around the world.
  • Jessica Custer, whose advice was “Don’t waste time on things that are easy.” The 2009 graduate holds degrees in Spanish, accounting, and international business. As a Fulbright Scholar, she spent a year in Peru developing a business model to provide sustainable sanitation to urban poor. She’s now completing a master’s degree in sustainable development in Paris.
  • Michael Modon, who invited students to “own something.” Modon earned degrees in economics and finance in 2010 and is now part of the Financial Planning & Analysis group at Google, working on YouTube content partnerships for Asia Pacific.