Editor’s note: Each year the David Eccles School of Business holds the Spencer Fox Eccles Convocation at the start of the academic year. It salutes Mr. Eccles (BS ’56 Banking & Finance) for decades of unparalleled commitment to his alma mater and his vital role in working with his aunt, Emma Eccles Jones, to establish a $15 million endowment for the David Eccles School of Business.
Last week, Eccles School students received an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of a former leader of one of today’s biggest financial brands, Wells Fargo.
Mr. Kovacevich, chairman emeritus of Wells Fargo & Company, was invited to speak to Eccles students at the school’s 26th annual Spencer Fox Eccles Convocation on Sept. 14, 2016.
Also present were U president, David Pershing, Spencer Fox Eccles, who worked with Mr. Kovacevich during part of his career, and David Eccles School of Business dean, Taylor Randall.
Experiences like Convocation help Eccles students apply classroom principles to real-world situations and provide the opportunity to learn from today’s most noteworthy business leaders.
Mr. Kovacevich spoke to a packed auditorium as he recounted his experience leading one of the world’s largest banks. He told students that he learned early on in his career the value of hard work, working collaboratively as a team and the importance of family. He also commented that getting up early was a key factor to his success and ability to get things done.
He encouraged students to learn and constantly pursue opportunities to learn now and throughout their careers. He suggested there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, illustrating his point with this: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to use it in a fruit salad.”
Kovacevich explained that wisdom is gained from experience and it improves over time. He commented that it’s important to learn from mistakes and sometimes, common sense isn’t that common at all.
He told students to find a company that shares their values because, “life’s too short to be different at work than you are at home.”
He also counseled students to find a boss who helps you develop, then learn from her (or him). He said not to worry about relatively minor things. He suggested it’s important to be engaged in giving back to the community and noted the award-winning track record of Wells Fargo for employees’ contributions of time, money and talent to the communities they call home.
Mr. Kovacevich said, “Good leaders create more good leaders, not good followers.” He encouraged students to build trust and become great communicators. He also suggested that leadership entails a realistic but optimistic view of the future.