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To Succeed, Learn to Keep Pace with Fast-Changing World, TSU Commencement Speaker Tells More than 500 Graduates

President Glenda Glover presents a plaque of appreciation to Shannon A. Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource and Diversity Officer at FedEx Express, who served as the keynote speaker for the fall commencement at TSU.

(TSU News Service) – Saying that today’s fast-changing world requires people who can adapt, Tennessee State University fall commencement speaker told nearly 500 graduates Saturday that to be successful they must be ready to “run when the sun comes up,” to keep pace.

“Today’s reality is that the world is changing faster,” said Shannon Brown, senior vice president and chief human resource and diversity officer at FedEx Express. “Economies and their enterprises are moving at a very fast pace and people who are slow to adapt will be left behind.”

Brown, recognized by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America,” paralleled his remarks to the “gazelle” and the “lion” in Christopher McDougal’s book, “Ready to Run,” where the gazelle must outrun the fastest lion or be killed, or the lion must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running,” said the FedEx executive, who, in 30 years, worked his way from a package handler to become one of the top executives at the world’s largest express transport company.

He said in a fast-track world with constant technological advances and changes that have revolutionized all aspects of industry and human thinking, people who are slow to catch on and prepare for the future will be left behind.

He applauded the graduates for their determination to complete their university journey, urging them to use that same determination to press their way forward.

“As you enter this fast changing world, surround yourselves with good mentors; they can help you make the transition from one environment to the other; don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; and commit to being lifelong learners,” Brown told the graduates.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native who said his job as the highest ranking human resource and diversity officer at FedEx is to keep employees engaged and satisfied, named charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, courage, dependability, flexibility, judgment and respect for others as “time-tested” leadership principles that will keep them competitive in their chosen fields.

“It is about believing that every individual brings value to the table; and do not forget to give back to the community,” Brown added.

Leaitrice Medina
President Glenda Glover congratulates Leatrice Medina for receiving the Academic Excellence Award. The award is given to a graduating senior with the highest GPA of 4.0 among her classmates. Medina received her degree in Psychology.

TSU President Glenda Glover, herself a Memphis native, thanked Brown for what she called, “a thought-provoking” speech, and congratulated the graduates for their accomplishment.

“You have endured and prepared yourself to reach this goal which may have seemed unattainable, but you stuck with it,” Dr. Glover said. “You must always remember that you did not accomplish this goal all by yourselves. There were parents, relatives, friends and mentors who helped you along the way. Remember to thank them.”

More than 500 graduates received degrees in various disciplines at the ceremony in the Gentry Center Complex. Among officials who attended the program was Dr. Wendy Thompson, vice chancellor for Organizational Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives, at the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Top FedEx Exec to Give Commencement Address at Tennessee State University Fall Graduation Ceremony Dec. 13

Shannon Brown - Larger Photo
Shannon A. Brown

(TSU News Service) – In more than 30 years Shannon A. Brown worked his way up from a package handler to one of the top corporate ranks at FedEx Express. He has been named to Black Enterprise magazine’s list of “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America.”

On Saturday, Dec. 13, Brown, senior vice president and chief HR and Diversity officer at the world’s largest express transport company, will share his vast knowledge and experience in leadership and how to succeed in corporate America, when he delivers the commencement address at Tennessee State University’s fall graduation in the Gentry Center complex.

More than 400 undergraduate and graduate candidates will receive their degrees in various disciplines at the ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m.

As the most senior human resources executive for FedEx Express, Brown provides strategic direction for all human resources practices, policies and operations for the company of more than 160,000 team members, providing fast and reliable delivery to every U.S. address and more than 220 countries and territories.

His rise to the senior executive level at FedEx is a result of his continued demonstration of exceptional leadership qualities and a strong commitment to service. During his tenure, FedEx has consistently been ranked on Fortune magazine’s list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and Black Enterprise magazine’s “40 Best Companies for Diversity.”

Brown, who also served as senior vice president of Human Resource for FedEx Ground, is a recipient of many accolades and recognitions. He was appointed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to the University of Tennessee System Board of Trustees and to the Advisory Board for Western Governors University. He also chairs the International Air Transport Association Human Capital Steering Group and serves on the University of Denver’s Board of Directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute.

Among many other accolades, Brown, who resides in Memphis, Tennessee, was named Savoy magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential Executives in Corporate America.” The Memphis Tri-State Defender newspaper named Brown one of “50 Men of Excellence,” and Black MBA magazine recognized him in its list of “Top 50 Under 50.”

As a result of his dedication to community service, Brown serves on many civic and institutional boards, including the Board of Trustees of the Lausanne Collegiate School, and the Board of the United Way of Mid-South, which he chairs. He previously served as March of Dimes Executive Champion, and received the Crystal Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation for Philanthropy. Brown is a recipient of the National-Louis University Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the Memphis City Schools Alumni Hall of Fame.

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from National-Louis University in Chicago, and a master’s degree from the University of Denver.


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Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.