Willis Chief Joe Plumeri Tells 2011 Graduates of the College of William & Mary to "Go Play In Traffic"
Williamsburg, Virginia, May 17, 2011 – Speaking to a packed stadium of 12,000 people at William & Mary Hall on the campus of the College of William & Mary on Sunday, Joe Plumeri, Chairman and CEO of Willis Group (NYSE: WSH) told over 1,900 graduates and their families that today”s degree recipients must move beyond their comfort zone and “go play in traffic and find out what’s possible.” He added that they “won’t make a difference by sitting on the sidelines.”
The thrust of Plumeri’s remarks was that each graduate “can be builders of a future dream if you show up, knock on doors, scrap and be engaged.” Painting a picture of challenging the status quo, Plumeri drew on the stories of the Founding Fathers in the 13 American colonies, the protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Egyptian revolutionaries of 2011 and his own hero, Winston Churchill. Plumeri added four road signs along the road that anyone playing in traffic must follow to achieve their dreams: vision, passion, integrity and an abiding belief that “anything is possible.”
Plumeri, a 1966 graduate of William & Mary, interwove his story of rising from an upbringing in Trenton, New Jersey and through the ranks of corporate America, weaving the narrative with four stories of Class of 2011 students who harnessed vision, passion and integrity to achieve great heights while in college. He also used his speech to bestow thanks on two groups that feed those dreams: parents and faculty.
The prepared text for Plumeri’s commencement address can be found here. A video recording of the speech, as delivered, can be found at YouTube here.
Plumeri has remained deeply involved with William & Mary since his graduation. After receiving his degree, he taught history and coached football before moving to New York to attend law school. After arriving there, he started working part time for Carter, Berlind & Weill, the brokerage founded by Sandy Weill that though further acquisition became Citigroup. After 32 years at Citigroup-owned companies, Plumeri became Chairman and CEO of Willis, where he has served for over 10 years and led the company through its IPO in 2001 and a decade of significant organic and acquisition-fuelled growth.
Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global insurance broker. Through its subsidiaries, Willis develops and delivers
professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public
entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries,
with a global team of approximately 17,000 employees serving clients in virtually every part of the
world. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.
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