Founder/CEO Blog

  • photo of Mr. Rickey

     Commentaries on Education, Youth & Parenting

    Mr. Rickey is the founder and C.E.O. of Orenda Education.  Early in his career, he was Executive Director for a community health foundation that provided health promotion curriculum and training to numerous schools in Central Oklahoma.  Mr. Rickey went on to serve as a hospital Chief Executive Officer with Hospital Corporation of America and then as Chief Operating Officer overseeing multiple hospitals and clinics for Behavioral Centers of America.  Mr. Rickey received a Master's of Public Health degree in healthcare administration from the University of Oklahoma and Master's of Arts from Southern Nazarene University. 

  • "TX Supreme Court Decision Assures Less Funding for Charter Schools Continues"

    Posted by Richard N. Rickey on 5/18/2016

    Orenda Charter Schools had joined in supporting 600 traditional independent school districts, the Texas Charter School Association, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity, and other plaintiffs in the joint lawsuit against the State of Texas, claiming that the state funding for public education was unconstitutional on several grounds, including that sufficient funds are not provided to meet the states increasingly higher academic standards. The Texas Supreme Court, while admitting that the current funding system is “byzantine”, ruled on May 13 that it was adequate and met its minimum constitutional duties.   

    The Texas Supreme Court recent decision not only denied that traditional schools need more funding, it also assures public charter schools will continue to receive far less money than traditional schools to meet the same academic requirements for many years to come.   This makes our recently launched Gateway Legacy Capital Campaign, and existing Annual Gator Club Campaign at our Gateway College Preparatory School, all the more timely and justified

    In spite of our financial challenges let’s not forget our charter school advantages, and some of the reasons you may have chosen one of our Orenda Charter School campuses.   Unlike our traditional school rivals, public charter schools may cap enrollment, offer a specialized academic mission and innovative instructional methods, and we don’t have to enroll students with prior school discipline histories.  This allows us to create a very unique school culture that can be a better fit for some students.  For others, it may not be the right school.   If this is the right school for your child, please consider your role in financially supporting the school to keep it viable and strong.

    The Foundation School Program (FSP), set out in chapter 42 of the Education Code, is the primary source of funding for all public schools in Texas.   The FSP functions to guarantee that each public school district (traditional and charter) has “adequate resources to provide eligible student a basic instructional program and facilities suitable to the student’s educational needs”.  The total funding is based on the average daily attendance for each campus after filtering through an elaborate system of adjustments for that schools unique characteristics and specific student demographics.  For Orenda Charter Schools it comes out to about $6,800 per student in FSP funding per calendar year.

    However, on top of FSP funding, traditional pubic school districts pull in even more money not available to public charter schools.   Traditional ISD’s also have taxing authority and collect local tax revenues from you and me that they supplement, on top of FSP funds, to cover the full costs for all the ISD’s facility construction and on-going facility maintenance.   When you add in this additional funding source, the local school districts near our charter campuses are bringing in approximately $8,800 per student, or $2,000 more per student than we have to work with.   For a school district with 1,200 students, they will have about $2.5 million dollars in additional revenues per year than our Gateway College Prep campus with the same number of students. (click here for an independent funding study)  

    Since we are not magicians that can do more with less, we have established two important fund raising sources to make up this funding gap.  Our Annual Gator Club Campaign helps to cover our annual operating expenses not covered by state FSP funds.   The money you donate as a Gator Club Member allows us to keep our teacher compensation competitive with local ISD’s, not transfer as much FSP revenue, intended for instruction, over to help cover our permanent construction debt service, offer quality UIL and other extracurricular programs, and thus better serve our charter school students.  It would not be possible to offer competitive salaries, or our current academic and extracurricular programs without the generosity of these Gator Club families.  See our Donor List here.

    Our second fund raising source is the just launched Gateway Legacy Capital Campaign (check out our student success stories here).    While the Annual Gator Club Campaign is to help pay for annual operating expenses not covered by FSP state funding, our Legacy Campaign is solely for new permanent construction that we can pay with cash, thus lowering our new construction debt service costs to an amount we can cover with our Annual Gator Club Campaign.  We all know how overcrowded we are and what we don’t have.  Please remember, the reason we have these physical needs is because our first funding priority is always competitive compensation for the faculty, campus leaders, and support staff that educate and serve your children.   Our second priority is funding the special programs we offer in academics, fine arts and athletics.  We can only complete more permanent construction as more of our current families support our Annual Gator Club Campaign and new individuals step up to support our Legacy Capital Campaign.        

    To support the school that educates your children, or to increase your current tax-deductable charitable donations, please contact our Orenda Education office at 512-869-3020 or visit, and click on the “Giving” tab.     

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  • "What's Wrong With Our Boys?"

    Posted by Richard Rickey on 4/27/2016

    If you have a daughter and a son, like I do, the odds are your daughter will have a higher GPA in school, and is more likely to go on to college and earn a degree in four years or less compared to your son. Here in America women now outpace men in college enrollment by a ratio of 1.4 to 1, and that gap has been widening for decades.  At some colleges, the ratio of males to females has gotten so low that colleges like Southwestern University here in Georgetown, and Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, started or rebooted dead football programs to attract more males to campus.  Some admission departments are so concerned that they are exploring the idea of “affirmative action” for males.  As one male student said when learning his college had a male to female ratio of 1 to 2, “that’s awesome!”

    If you only have daughters you still be concerned.   What does this do to the odds your high achieving daughter is likely to find suitable dates with the opposite sex?   The latest smart phone dating app is not going to fix this problem.  With far fewer good paying manufacturing jobs, oil rig gigs, or other jobs that don’t require a professional degree, we are going to see a lot more males underemployed and hanging around your street corner in the years to come.

    I know some of my readers will think I’m “crying wolf” because we still have gender wage disparities in some careers, and men still occupy most of the CEO corner offices and high level jobs in the STEM related fields.  Well, that is changing rapidly and that is a good thing for our daughters.

    In the recent book The Rise of Women, Columbia University author and researcher Thomas DiPrete states that, “young men are overly optimistic about their ability to earn a livable salary, even though they’re less educated than women”.   We now live in a rapidly changing world were the single most important asset is your mind and not your muscles. We automate almost everything now.  Robots now do what men and women use to do on the assembly line.  More and more workers are needed who can figure out and operate complex systems. Unfortunately many of our boys are totally unprepared for this shift. They don’t even know what’s going to hit them when they graduate from high school.

    With these trends in mind, my vision for our Orenda charter schools was to make sure our boys are just as college and career ready as our girls. Based on GPA’s and our college admission rates, I’m happy to report we are significantly better at this than most other schools, but we still need to do better. When we look at our school data we always break it down by gender, along with several other factors, and clearly we are doing something right for those boys who stay through to graduation. However, we still lose too many boys that are struggling academically, especially in grades 8, 9, and 10, to other school transfers.

    I believe the following ingredients must be present in our schools to achieve high rates of academic success with boys, as well as girls. First, and most importantly, the school culture must maintain high expectations.  Don’t give boys any other option but rigor and excellence.  The problem with many large schools is that they offer multiple academic tracks a boy can take and too often boys will take the easy road and follow their peers into mediocrity.  At our college prep campuses everybody must take a minimum of four Advanced Placement classes and at least one AP Exam for college credit before they can receive a diploma.  At our Tech campus many of our male students take dual enrollment classes for college credit while in high school, and we’ve had some accelerate through the required course work to graduate early.

    We need all our faculty and parents to appreciate, celebrate and accommodate the unique challenges of educating boys.  Of course, not all boys are the same, and what I’m about to write is true for some girls as well.  Boys need to be allowed to move, a lot. My sister has taught English her entire career in both middle and high school. I have seen her in action.  She loves teaching boys and is an advocate for all male classrooms (unlikely to happen so she adapts).  What is beautiful to watch in her classrooms is  how much body movement goes on her classrooms as she allows and encourages her boys, and girls, to pace, play and compete, yes compete, while studying Shakespeare.  She makes sure her male students have fun while learning.  Her STAAR test scores are consistently exceptional.

    If we didn’t expect our boys to sit still for so many hours a day in daycare centers, and later in our school classrooms, would we have so many of them on Ritalin, and other ADHD medications? I’m not a physician, and I’m not suggesting these medications are not sometimes medically appropriate, but I’ve raised a “hyper-active” boy, served as CEO of children and adolescent behavioral health treatment centers, and I do my research. I’m totally convinced by the evidence that we have too many boys on these medications when what would work better for many of them is for the adults who are supervising, teaching, or coaching them, to accommodate their natural need and desire for space, movement, play and competition. This can be inconvenient for the adults as it is easier to “drug em up” than to get on the floor and play with them, or create a lesson plan that incorporates movement, competition and fun.

    Boys need meaningful relationships and to feel like they belong.  Belonging is one of the four key values in our “Circle of Courage” philosophy of education and raising good children.   It begins in the home of course.  Where are the Fathers?  Hopefully each one of our male students has a Father who is involved and active in parenting their son, along with their mother.  Divorce is no excuse.  Fathers, spend quality time with your son.

    As our boys walk into our schools, they should feel accepted for being a boy and they should be encouraged and free to share all their emotions. We know many of our boys are insecure about their abilities and that keeps many of them less engaged in school or acting out.  As a parent, teacher, coach or instructor, we need to praise our boys, tell them we love them and that we expect great things from them because we know they are capable.

    Mr. Rickey is the founder and C.E.O. of Orenda Education. Early in his career he was Executive Director for a community health foundation that provided health promotion curriculum and training to numerous schools in central Oklahoma. Mr. Rickey went on to serve as a hospital Chief Executive Officer with Hospital Corporation of America and then as Chief Operating Officer overseeing multiple hospitals and clinics for Behavioral Centers or America.  Mr. Rickey received a Master of Public Health degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Oklahoma and Master of Arts from Southern Nazarene University.


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  • "When the Going Gets Tough, Quit!"

    Posted by Richard N. Rickey on 4/13/2016

    I don’t believe that, but I witness a growing number of parents with that mindset. Too often when a child is struggling in school now the parent will become frustrated, blame the teacher or school administration, and then transfer the child to another school hoping for a better academic result. That is the temptation of school choice and its challenge. While Orenda Education was born from the school choice movement of the 1990’s, and I certainly support and believe in school choice, it can be a double edge sword because choice also gives the student and the parent an escape from having to deal with the real issue.

    I think we should assume strength in our children, not weakness. More often than not, what is needed for academic success is not some fancy new instructional method, the latest in technology, more rewards or a different school. What is needed is parenting with high expectations, getting your child to do what they don’t want to do, and not apologizing for being tough. Your child will thank you later, probably much later. As a parent of two very different children, and genders, I know from experience how challenging is the task when you have a child that is struggling academically. Of course, you are going to want to know if they have a learning disorder, or if some other social-environment factor is a contributing factor, but I can tell you an often underestimated cause of poor school performance is good old fashioned laziness. And sometimes we as parents get lazy in our parenting.

    Amy Chua wrote the controversial book Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother a few years ago. The book is about parenting children with high expectations. For Amy, growing up in Boston in a home with hard working Chinese immigrate parents, she got in trouble for A minuses, had to drill math and piano every day, with no sleepovers and no boyfriends allowed. Her book is a memoir of her struggles as a parent to raise her two daughters here in America where the culture was not as demanding of its children as the one she grew up in. Many people were critical of her book and her demanding parenting style. I highly recommend the book so you can decide for yourself, but I do agree with Amy that we in America can ask more of children than we typically do.

    This lack of courage to parent tough may come about from the softening effect of an entitlement culture where all the kids get trophies for participation, schools don’t give out “F’s” for poor work because they don’t want to hurt anybodies feelings (or have them transfer to another school), and competition and keeping score is considered a bad thing. Here at Orenda Education we believe an entitlement culture will only make our American children less prepared for a global world where they are competing for a job against smart hard working young people from China, India, Morocco, and many other countries where their students are outperforming American kids in math, reading and science.

    All of us parents want our children to reach their true potential, but to do so they have to work at it. As parents we need to make sure we keep the bar high enough so they don’t under achieve. I’m not saying they can’t have fun along the way and enjoy being a kid, but the growing culture of entitlement and low expectations must be countered with our parental determination to do everything we possibly can to take away all our children’s excuses for why they are not excelling in school. Too many kids are spending too much time on Snapchat and not enough time with their nose in a book and their fingers on the keyboard typing a 1,000 word expository essay on why they hate their demanding parents.

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  • "Why AP is Better for Your Child Than IB"

    Posted by Richard N. Rickey on 3/31/2016

    Here at Orenda Education, we believe the Advanced Placement (“AP”) curriculum we offer is a better
    option to train young minds than the International Baccalaureate (“IB”) programme. If you want to
    assure your child is truly ready for academic success in college, both the AP and IB offer the very best in
    college preparatory curriculum. Both AP and IB offer a more challenging college level of course work
    than non AP and non IB classes. Studies show that students who successfully complete AP or IB courses
    are significantly more likely to be successful in college and to graduate on time (or early) and with higher
    grades. However, I have concerns about the growth of the IB program here in America.

    A growing number of parents are enrolling their children in “IB World Schools” that are authorized by
    the Geneva, Switzerland based International Baccalaureate Organization (“IBO”) to offer the IB
    programme here in America. Here in Williamson and Travis County, we have several schools which
    now offer the IB programme. You might want to ask why this is happening, and whether or not this is
    positive development here in America.

    My biggest concern with this trend is that it may eventually eliminate a common pride shared among
    our youth of what are uniquely American values. I believe the IB values and curriculum taught reflect a
    more universal, relativistic and even socialist view, while the AP values and curriculum more consistently
    reflect the founding values of the United States of America.

    The IB curriculum de-emphasizes ones nationality in our case, U.S.A. nationality, and overemphasizes the
    values of a new “worldliness” as reflected for example in the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) “A
    Continuum of International Education”, that states the IB values as: “In developing an awareness of diverse
    values of different cultures, it is, however, fundamental that students in each IBO programme are exposed to
    those human values which are recognized as universal; these embodied in the Universal Declaration of
    Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948”.
    What is taught and emphasized matters. This is an important point that isn’t mentioned enough in our
    politically correct environment.

    Many families have no idea what is taught in many IB classes. The IB programme, and the IB “World Schools”
    that offer the IB programme, have a history traced to the International School of Geneva in 1924. IB was founded
    under the League of Nations to educate the children of the League of Nations delegates. Currently the IB office
    is registered in Geneva, Switzerland and both UNESCO and the United Nations are partners with and influence
    IB. In contrast, the Advanced Placement curriculum was developed by the College Board. The College Board is
    an American private nonprofit corporation, currently headquartered in New York City, formed in 1899 to expand
    access to higher education for students in the United States of America.

    Most importantly, every educational system has a moral goal that it tries to attain and that informs its
    curriculum. In the beginning schooling in America was free of government interference. The term
    “education” appears nowhere in the Constitution. Education was the duty and concern of parents.
    What kind of person do you want your child to be? What do you want them to learn? When
    government run public education took hold our schools used to invite students to take their seats in a
    shared American culture. We didn’t allow a left-or-right-wing slant. Our public school's mission was in
    part to produce students sufficiently proud and knowledgeable of this country and ready to take care of
    it. While some will justifiably argue to get rid of public schools, if we are going to keep them, we believe
    the principles behind the forming of the College Board, and the AP curriculum employed at Gateway
    College Prep, are closer to our Founders view of how to train young minds than the International
    Baccalaureate Programme.

    Finally, IB is expensive to implement (teacher training, program fees, certification, travel, administrative
    costs, etc) and would increase our current instructional costs by 6%. We are also critical that more of
    our American education dollars are going to support an organization in Geneva, Switzerland with its own
    agenda, and whose values often contradict our Constitution.

    Costly boutique educational programs like IB are not needed. With full adoption of the American
    College Board Advanced Placement curriculum, schools like Gateway College Prep do provide an
    exceptional academic foundation for college readiness, and preparation for success in a global world.

    To read more detail on the AP versus IB comparison, both good and bad, please click here.

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  • Graduation Address at Gateway College Prep School

    Posted by Richard N. Rickey on 5/30/2015

    Before I impart all my years of wisdom on you I would like to first introduce my posse.   To my immediate left is Caylyn C.  Caylyn is scheduled to fight UFC Champ Ronda Rousey in October.     To my far left is Jacob G.  Jacob wrestles bulls.  I have my posse here with me today because I understand the graduates had plans to “punk” the commencement speaker.   Well, I’m on to you.  Not going to happen!  I have my back-ups! 

    This leads right into my first words of advice to you graduates….. always have back-up and always have a back-up plan.    

    Thank you Caylyn.  Thank you Jacob.  You know what to do if anyone starts any trouble.

    The importance of back-up was illustrated a few years ago when my son was a senior here at Gateway Prep. My son Chase was goofy off with his friends at a Gateway girls’ volleyball match.  This was played at the other schools gym.   I was also in attendance. Chase’s friends have painted their bodies green and orange and my son is wearing shorts, a referee’s stripped shirt, and a whistle. My son stands 6’2’’ but barely 130 lbs soaking wet.  Get the picture? They looked ridiculous.   They are having some fun cheering for our girls and dishing out some friendly banter to the other school and the officials.  It started during the first match and escalated as the match wore on.  I could see it was really starting to agitate our opposition.  Sure enough a couple of the big football players on the other side of the gym took offence to some of their antics …….and as this 240 lb kid in a varsity letter jacket starts walking over to murder my son……. my son comes up to me and asks, “Dad, you’ve got my back right?”  I turned and said, “Son, you should have arranged that before you insulted Brutus over there”. 

    1.       Always have back-up and always have a back-up plan.

    Before I sprinkle some more wisdom on you graduates let me stop for a moment and address all the people that helped you arrive at this place in time…… your teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, probation officers……… to all of you that assisted this group of graduates.     I know you did most of the heavy lifting for I have graduated two children myself.   You gave them life, food, clothing, and money for skittles.  You certainly deserve a lot of the credit for getting them this far.   Good job Dad.  Good job Mom.

    There is something really special about graduation as you reflect on all that went into this accomplishment.   The joy and the pain. The ups and the downs.  As a parent here is what I learned on graduation day.  I learned how much I loved my kids.  Before we have children it’s mostly about us.  As we grow older, and have children, it becomes less about us and more about them.     I become less and they became more………. until I received their first college tuition bill ………and then I focus on me again…… “Yeks!  My kids are costing me a fortune!”

    Want to make your parents happy?  Graduate from college in four years or less.  Please!

    So graduates, this is where some really old guy (or girl) is supposed to give you some words of advice you will have no recollection of by tomorrow morning.    Here we go…….My second morsel of wisdom is……..

           2.    Always have a good pair of shades handy because you never know when you’re going to be exposed to the glare of nonsense.   Nonsense can blind you.

    Here is the most common lunacy that is coming your way. 

    Lunacy # 1.   In order to be successful you must have a certain score

    We are flooded with numbers.  We measure everything these days. 

    As a public school student you have been tested and measured practically to death. You have a

    STAAR score

    Class rank

    SAT score

    Grade point average; you even have a……… 

    “Hot” score.   For you young people the scoring scale goes 1 to 10.  10 “He’s hot”.  1 “He’s a loser”.  

    The one good thing about getting older is that by the time you reach my age the scoring only goes from 1 – 3.  It’s a lot less pressure.   I work out and watch what I eat because I’m just trying to be a 3.   You score a 3 at my age……

     3 = He’s Lukewarm

     2 = Not Bad  

     1 = He’s alive  

    From all of these measurements come statistics where by people place odds on you. Your odds or chances for success in your endeavors.   Gatekeepers do this ----- college admission staff, employers, even people you want to date.

    The messages we receive are ......that in order to be successful …..we must have a certain score.

    No. Even Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan had average scores when they were teenagers. They were late bloomers.  I’ve learned there are two better predictors for success.

    1.      The determination to outwork others

    2.      Living with a driving passion

    Just take me for an example.  I wasn’t a great student.  I played football but ran 40 yard dash in 4.8 seconds. Not fast enough to play in the NFL.  I had a funny name, Richard Rickey.   I just got by. 

    I graduated from high school in Michigan.  I was the oldest child of four and so I was the first to graduate.  When I did my goal was to get as far away from my family as possible, so I moved out and went to a small college in Boston.   I would have gone even farther, but there was an ocean that stopped me.  

    I’m two years at college taking my core courses and I had no idea what I was going to be, or do for a living.   Not only did I not have a back-up plan, I didn’t have a plan at all. 

    I had one thing working in my favor.  I was a hard worker.  As a teenager I did a lot of odd jobs.   I was a janitor and I worked construction. The most difficult job I ever had was as a roofer one hot summer in Oklahoma.  I have a lot of respect for guys that put food on the table by roofing for a living.  For a time I was employed at a machine shop.  One of the proud moments of my life is when my Dad told me that the owner of the machine shop said I was his hardest worker, and that he would hold a full-time job for me after college if I wanted it. My Dad was proud. I felt good.

    But I still lacked a passion and a plan.  That is not uncommon for young people. I know Dad.  You’re wondering, “When is it going to kick in?”  Be patient.  Sometimes it takes a while. You might be surprised when and where passion gets lit.   

    Here is how it happened for me.  So I’m finishing up my second year of college and have completed most of my required core classes.  I needed some elective credits.   I see an elective course called “Systematic Theology” that worked with my schedule.  I wasn’t sure what that was about but I heard the professor was pretty good.     We didn’t have Google back then.  Back in the old days when you didn’t know something you went to the library and grabbed a dictionary.  Flipping through the dictionary I found the word “theology”.  Aristotle says it’s “the study of the divine”. Being a 20 year old guy I’m thinking anything divine must have something to do with beautiful women.  I want that class.  So I go to the registrar’s office.  I ask, “How much for the course on Theology?”  Clerk looks at me bewildered and says “Are you sure you want to take that”?   “Yep, it’s the study of the divine”, I say.   That will be $200.  College was affordable back then.  I write a check.  Clerk goes back for my receipt, and I can imagine now, all these years later…….that the clerk went to the back and said to the other clerk, “How did that dude get admitted”.

    I show up for class and look over the syllabus.  There is no mention of the beautiful Rachel Welch or the “perfect 10” Bo Derek.  You can imagine my disappointment.  I learn instead that the course is a seminar on the study of God with Professor Edward Dexter.  

    I’m required to read books and articles by some really dead guys named Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, & Tillich. 

    For the next three months I was to receive a systematic study of the concepts of Gods such as:

         The Unmoved Mover

         Ground of Reality

         First Cause

    So I’ve been sitting through these lectures…. and I’m in to about week seven…. and one day it happened.   Prof. Dexter has outlined these elaborate theories of how various religions understand and worship God on a 20 X 6 foot chalk board (we didn’t have dry erase boards back then) –   He had chalk all over the board, his hands and suit. He looks at his masterpiece.  He’s all excited and he just stops.  Stops!!   “Look”, he said, “this whole thing about understanding the mystery of God and the purpose of life is like a trapeze act.  There is the catcher and the flyer.  God is the catcher.  You are the flyer.  Put yourself in the position to be caught”.  

    ……………That idea changed me.


    Lunacy # 2.  That you can unlock the mysteries of life with reason and science alone.   Professor Dexter taught me that is not true.     

    What worries me about you kids going off to college is the cynicism, hedonism and relativism that is taught and practiced in most of our universities today. Today’s faith is in humanism and self-sufficiency, numbers, data and statistics.  We moderns are stripping the world of its natural revelations…… of nature itself.   I see an uncritical worship of everything new, modern and different.  I worry what you will be fed, intellectually, morally, and spiritually over the next several years as you continue your learning.

    I say….leave room for mystery and take the time for spiritual development.  Don’t neglect to feed your spirit and soul.  Sing, dance, go to church/synagogue/mosque, paint, pray, keep all your love letters (throw away your bank statements), fish, ride a see saw with a friend.  Volunteer at a children’s hospital. Like the Scotts Lawn commercial …. I say, “Feed your soul!  Feed it!!”   

    So there I was.  My scores were not all that great coming out of high school, but I worked hard.  Now finally, I had a spark for learning, thanks especially to Professor Dexter.  I obtained a bachelor’s degree at my small liberal arts college in Boston, and went on to get a couple of Master’s Degrees.  Some opportunities came along and I took advantage of those.  Eventually I landed a job with Hospital Corporation of America.   I worked my way up the corporate ladder as Hospital CEO, making a decent salary, got married,  moved into a bigger house, nice car, a couple of kids and a dog.   By most standards that is when you are classified a success.   This is about the time you come to the third set of nonsense…………..

    Lunacy # 3  The purpose, meaning, essence of life is to be successful.    

    I’m not saying success is bad. It is sure better than being a miserable failure.  I hope all of you experience some success, make millions and donate some of that to Gateway Prep so we can finish another phase of construction.  If so, we will name a building after you.  You will become immortal.    

    The purpose, and goal of life is not to be successful ……The purpose, meaning and absolute essence of life it is to be significant

    My last story.  Ted Gianoulas was a college kid that needed a job.  He was hanging out with his college buddies when a radio station rep came around looking for volunteers to hand out Easter eggs to children at the zoo.  There was one catch.  You had to wear a chicken costume. The pay was $2 per hour.  Ted volunteers and because he was a short guy, and fit the suit best, he was chosen. “Why a chicken costume” he asked.   “Why not a bunny or monkey?”  “I don’t know”, the rep said, “because there is just something inherently funny about a chicken”.    He puts on the chicken suit and goes to the zoo and passes out Easter eggs all day. The gig is over.   The San Diego Padres have an opening day baseball game coming up in a few days. Ted gets an idea.  This is where Ted takes flight like the trapeze act Prof. Dexter talked about.  He buys a ticket and goes to the game wearing that same chicken costume.  He did some silly things in that costume……..a soft shoe dance, a little voodoo, put some little babies head in between his chicken beak. The crowd loved him.  The radio station liked the free publicity and the Padres owner hired him on the spot to come in costume and entertain the crowd at every game for the remainder of the season.

    Ted became the famous San Diego Chicken for 40 years and created the concept of game entertainment in between innings and at half-times.  He never missed a day of work or a single gig because of illness or injury for some 8,000 scheduled game appearances and over 17,000 total appearances including parades and other parties.   Sporting News named the San Diego Chicken one of the Top 100 Most Powerful People in Sports of the 20th Century.   More impressive, after each game and performance, when all the young kids would come up to him to get his autograph, he would always sit and sign absolutely every autograph request at no charge before he went home.

    Maybe Ted was just lucky?  I think Ted put himself in a position to be caught, used a little creativity, showed up for work every day and had a passion. 

    So I say to you graduates, don’t go off just to be a success. Success is like a wave that keeps moving away from you as you try to ride it.  The danger is that “succeeding” will take up too much of your whole life while feeding your soul and your passions get neglected. 

    And one last thing……… if you come to visit me in 25 years, and I’m walking around this campus with no teeth and a walking cane, and you are not living a life of significance I will be so disappointed.    I won’t want to know how big your house is.  I’ll ask, “How did you do in your relationships?   Are you giving back?    Who have you been significant for?” 

    Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for listening.  Graduates, thank you for not “punking” the commencement speaker.   Congratulations and Godspeed!

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