Alumnus/Retired Executive Bross Tells Pitt-Johnstown Grads: ‘Jump Higher!’


posted April 29, 2017

Pitt-Johnstown marked its 45th Commencement ceremony on April 29, 2017.

The event honored 559 graduates who completed requirements for Bachelor Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Associate of Science degrees. More than 392 seniors processed in the ceremony.

Pitt-Johnstown alumnus and retired Hormel Foods Corp. executive Richard A. Bross served as honorary speaker. 

The commencement ceremony was held in the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center. Diana Schroeder, PhD and assistant professor of nursing and program coordinator for the BSN Program led the procession as Grand Marshall. She was joined by Faculty Marshals: Greg Petyak; Liz Katrancha, PhD; Natalie Conrad Barnyak, PhD; Jeremy Justus, PhD; Luis Bonachea, PhD; and Eunice Yang, PhD.

President Spectar with Richard Bross Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar (left) with
honorary speaker Richard A. Bross

flickr See more Commencement 2017 photos on Flickr >

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar presented Mr. Bross with the President’s Medal of Distinctive Excellence, the highest honor that the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown bestows.

"Mr. Bross is passionate about ethical leadership and is instrumental as a member of our Board of Advisors," said President Spectar.

The award recognizes exceptional persons for their exemplary contributions toward making our world a better place. 

Honorees are chosen on wide range of criteria including their social, cultural and humanitarian contributions, leadership in their professions as well as service to the community of humankind. Individuals receiving this prestigious honor make a positive difference in our world, their actions inspire and empower others to achieve their fullest potential; they contribute to human progress and enlightenment.

"His interest in supporting business students while promoting strong communications and ethical leadership is changing lives," said Dr. Spectar. "Mr. Bross also contributes his talent and time as a member of the Pitt-Johnstown Board of Advisors." 

A noted philanthropist, Mr. Bross’s contribution to scholarships at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has earned him a place of distinction in the 1927 Cornerstone Society, the university’s most prestigious donor honor roll.

Mr. Bross graduated from Pitt-Johnstown magna cum laude in 1973 with a BA in economics and was a divisional scholar in economics. He shared with the audience, three simple, but important, points:

“Jump higher! Stretch. 

“World’s await! There are so many opportunities.

“Getting there is all the fun. Enjoy your ride.”

He began his Hormel Foods career in Grocery Products sales and wound up as the company’s vice president and president of HFIC, a position he held until his retirement in December 2012.

“When I graduated from UPJ, I did not know what I really wanted to do,” he said. “I certainly never thought I would end up in extremely cold Minnesota and selling SPAM luncheon meat around the world. I am the SPAM Man, and it is okay to laugh," he said to laughter from the audience. "It was a blast. There’s gold in those cans. Where will you find your gold?

“Pitt-Johnstown’s statement ‘get ready for the Real World’ is a good, practical statement.”

Mr. Bross concluded: "As UPJ has encouraged you to reach out to others in need and toward 'making our world a better place,' author, playwright, poet, and social critic James Baldwin challenged us with these words: 'the world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came.'

“Let’s all work to make the world just a little bit better.”

President Spectar thanked the students and their parents. He highlighted some students and their achievements, and encouraged all to continue to reach out and explore ways to improve their world.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is marking its 90th anniversary well as the 50th year of the campus in its Richland Township location. Pitt-Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.