Central Michigan University Commencement

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Daniel J. Loepp, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan President and CEO

Thank you very much. Thank you, President Wilbur, for the very kind introduction. Thanks to your esteemed faculty members, board of trustees and distinguished alumni. I am honored to be standing here today.

And thank you, to everyone in this arena — especially the Fall 2009 degree candidates of Central Michigan University — and your family members and friends.

I recall how I felt on the day of my first college graduation, and the pride my parents felt for me. I know how big this day is for all of you — and you should all be very proud of what you've accomplished to get yourselves here.

Today is the starting point of an amazing journey that will take you to unpredictable places. Along the way, your experiences will not always be positive.

But you can — and will — rely on the foundation you've built for yourself here at Central Michigan University. You will always be grateful for it, because not only does it serve as a milestone in your life's journey, it will constantly reinforce it in so many positive ways.

Let me ask you one question.

Is there anyplace else you would rather be this morning?

That's right. You are only several hours away from becoming Central Michigan University alumni.

I was just kidding about the "several hours" part.

Very soon, you will take your place among 182,000 Central Michigan University graduates living around the world today.

I want to implore all of you — if you haven't already settled on a destination — to make Michigan your home. We need your talent here — now — more than ever.

And I'll promise you something. I'm going to get you started on that journey sooner rather than later.

I am not going to be the guy whose only enduring contribution to this momentous occasion was to ruin your plans for a late breakfast at Max & Emily's or lunch at O'Kelley's.

I will not impede progress toward today's important events with family and friends. But I do want to ask you to bear with me here.

I am proof positive that you never know where your life's journey will lead you.

As Dr. Wilbur said, my name is Dan Loepp and I am the President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It's a challenging, complex, and difficult job, and it's a job I never saw myself taking when I sat in the audience — just like you — at Wayne State University.

But it's a dream job for a guy who is Michigan born and raised, whose kids are Michigan born and raised, whose parents are Michigan born and raised.

At CMU, I think you know what I mean. Of that 182,000 alumni I mentioned, more than 105,000 of them live and work right here in Michigan. They give back to Michigan just as you have done as underclassmen, at a university where more than 70 percent of students volunteer in the community.

That is one of the things that I know has always been a point of Chippewa pride for a good friend of mine, someone whom you may have heard of — Gail Torreano, who chairs the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees.

All you need to do is ask Gail about the great things going on at the Dow College of Health Professions, or the CMU Leadership Institute. Or talk about the school of medicine, which will not only serve Northern Michigan and the U.P. communities, but make the dream of medical school a lot more approachable for hundreds and thousands of gifted Michigan students. Or talk about the CMU Events Center, which by the end of next year, will transform this very arena into part of a great venue that serves not only the campus, but all of the surrounding communities.

This is a university that is mission-driven to give back.

At Blue Cross, we are very familiar with this calling — this responsibility of all of us — to give back to the people and places of Michigan.

This year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will pay about $20 billion dollars into the Michigan health care economy. That's close to $2,000 dollars for every single person in Michigan.

Most of that money will go right back into Michigan's economy — to provide for people's health care, support people who don't have health insurance, and allow hospitals and medical clinics and pharmacies to keep operating here in Michigan.

Blue Cross employs more than 8,000 people — all of them right here in Michigan. In what we do each day, we are actively working to create a healthier Michigan:

Healthier people.

Healthier communities.

And a healthier health care system.

That is our mission.

That is what brought me to Blue Cross. I am not an insurance guy by design. Before coming to the Blues just about 10 years ago, I had never worked in the health insurance or health care field.

I came to Blue Cross not out of a desire to lead an insurance company, or even be a part of one. But because I wanted to be part of an organization that has always demonstrated the kind of mission and values I am passionate about.

I am not going to belabor the point about our economy and how difficult it is here. More than me — you are well aware of just how challenging this economy and job market are at this moment.

Michigan will persevere. We all will have something to say about that. We are rich in talent and resources, both natural and intellectual. Michigan has some of the best universities, best research facilities, best companies, best schools and best people in the United States. And that brings me to the point of my standing here today. I am asking you to consider staying, contributing, and leading Michigan on its way forward.

I believe that perseverance is one of humanity's most important qualities. But perseverance requires energy. Energy begins with fuel. And the fuel for our renewal here in Michigan is intellectual and creative capital.

In short — it is you.

There have been a lot of epic football games played across the way at Kelly-Shorts — especially lately. The chants of Fire Up Chips are back — and they are resounding across the state. Just ask the good folks in East Lansing.

But there have been times when the football program here stumbled. When it wasn't just a matter of one tough game or one bad season. There were plenty of lean times. But the Chippewa spirit persevered.

There is always hope of revival.

Butch Jones brought new energy to Mount Pleasant. His players bought in. Dan LeFevour, Antonio Brown, Nick Bellore (yes, I do like a good college football game when I can watch one) those guys are all NFL-caliber quality players.

They've brought new energy. New life to the program. And now the nation looks at Central Michigan University a little differently, doesn't it?

Winning the MAC championship three times in the last four years and playing in bowl games for four straight years, that has a way of changing the point of view that people have.

You can do the same for Michigan.

You can take what you have learned here — a new set of leading edge skills that Michigan hungers for — and apply them to leading our state forward.

And what are the rewards?

What do you get out of investing your life's work in a place that many national pundits consider a has-been, a vestige of a bygone era?

Well, I'm here to tell you that you never can tell where life might take you.

But if you invest your energy, intelligence, creativity and commitment in Michigan's future, your life will take Michigan to a better tomorrow.

So, I ask you to consider a commitment to Michigan for your life's work.

I came to Blue Cross not because I wanted to work at a health insurance company. I came — and stayed — because my company is uniquely committed to Michigan. We live here. We are connected to everyone in Michigan health care. And we are invested in creating a healthier future for our people, our communities and our health care system.

For 70 years, Blue Cross has seen Michigan's ups and downs. We are not stuck in the past, but committed to a healthier future.

And I invite you — as you begin your journey with this ceremony today — to consider your place in leading Michigan to a healthier tomorrow.

Thank you. Congratulations. And may success always be your reward for perseverance.

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