Posted by: danielrashke | May 31, 2019

Returning to My Roots

I recently had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony at my alma mater, Pacelli Catholic High School, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. This experience was particularly meaningful because I was attending with the honor of being the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

Once I got over the astonishment of not only being nominated for but also of receiving this award (I was somewhat of a goof in high school and I never finished college), I had a lot of fun reminiscing about my friends, my teachers, and my “Glory Days” (cue Bruce Springsteen).

In preparing my speech, I struggled with if I should be thoughtful, somewhat interesting and heavily censored…or uncensored, more interesting and somewhat thoughtful. I landed somewhere in the middle.

Based on the crowd’s response, I think it landed pretty well. Here I share an excerpt from my speech. Perhaps you’ll find something of interest within it.

Pacelli meant to me Friendship, Faith, Service, Education…and Fun.

Friendship…my friend John Raflik was the one who kindly nominated me for the distinguished alumni award. Today he is the school’s Athletic Director. But back then he, Mike Brekke and I were The Three Amigos. In my senior yearbook John wrote, “You’re a hell of a friend and good luck in the future. You’re going to have a good one. I know it.”

While John and I knew we were not likely to stay as close in proximity or spend as much time together when we went our separate ways, there was and is a bond, because of our time together at Pacelli.

Faith…I was blessed to be afforded the opportunity to come to Pacelli. I grew up on a dairy farm in Amherst, not in the Stevens Point School District. The summer before 8th grade my parents recognized I was struggling in my environment. Two of my older brothers had gone to Pacelli ahead of me, so my parents sacrificed to allow me to go to St. Stan’s for my 8th grade year.

It was not easy for my parents though…with no public bussing, 30 minutes away by car, tuition costs, and the time commitment of volunteering. But it worked out great for me.

By going to Stevens Point Catholic schools for five years, I learned more about myself…about community…and about faith than any other period in my life. That faith remains a cornerstone, a part of my foundation that provides stability when business and life deal me tough problems that are not black and white, but gray.

Service…More specifically, choosing service over self-interest. I’m a big believer in servant leadership. This is where moral authority trumps natural authority. It is the freedom to choose…when we live by our conscience. It is conscience that transforms passion into compassion.

Education…When I took the ACT it included the test and an interest assessment and profile. My ACT score was average by today’s standards, but by some people’s standards, it was sub-par. The assessment part of the ACT said I like data and people…in that order. It also said I should look at sales, management or healthcare as potential career paths.

I went on to the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, but I left after two and half years. I was going to school, selling insurance and having fun. I couldn’t do them all well, so I decided one had to go. With my superior math-logic brain I deduced that having money from working really helped in the “having fun” part of the equation.

Back at Pacelli, I lettered in basketball and I did all the high school activities and events. When I was voted Class Clown and a classmate was voted Most Likely to Succeed, I was mad. I’m like, ‘What? You didn’t pick me…Is it because you believe one can’t have fun and be successful?’ I wanted to prove to everyone that I could succeed…in work…in family…in life.

My father used to tell me, “If you don’t think you’re good, how can you expect anyone else to think that?”

To the Pacelli graduates: do not let this time in high school or this institution define you, do not let your friends define you, do not let your family define you…you define you! Know that this institution, these friends, and your family are great sources of support and that your faith can be nourishing…especially at times when nourishment is desperately needed. Your faith and service over self-interest can also lead you to be the nourishment someone else might need.

And to all members of the Class of 2019: Congratulations. Godspeed.


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