Thornton, CEO of Thunder Enterprises, tells Maryville College grads to ‘enjoy the journey’
By Karen B. Eldridge | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Enjoy the journey but be sure to savor the views while climbing life’s mountains.
That was the message John Thornton passed along to members of Maryville College’s Class of 2013 during Commencement exercises on Sunday. Thornton, a Maryville native who is founder and CEO of Thunder Enterprises, said it was advice he had been given years ago from a successful business leader but failed to follow.
Thornton told the commencement crowd that after founding and guiding American Rug Craftsmen to a multimillion-dollar company, friend and Chattanooga businessman Joe Decosimo sent him a note, congratulating him on his success but reminding him to stop and enjoy “these moments.”
“I saved Joe’s note, but I really did not fully appreciate at the time what he meant,” Thornton said. “It was not until I was much older and had time to reflect – to look back on my own journey – that I understood the message.
“I was so focused on being at the top of the mountain that I didn’t stop to savor some of the most incredible views of my life during the journey,” he continued. “… So much of your happiness and growth and so many of the very best memories occur while you are climbing the mountain. When you are climbing the mountain to success – and I wish all of you much success – stop long enough to enjoy the views.”
Thornton, who served on the College’s Board of Directors from 1991 until 1999, also received the College’s honorary doctor of law during the ceremony.
He shared more advice from others in his address titled “Lloyd’s Lessons & Pat’s Principles.”
Remembering his late father, Lloyd Thornton, John Thornton told graduates to be appreciative.
“Dad was a perfect Southern gentleman, and he never missed the opportunity to say ‘Thank you,’” the speaker said. “Those two very simple words are two of the most powerful in the English language – no one ever tires of hearing them.
“Might I suggest that you take time to first thank your parents and all of the faculty, administrators and coaches who cared enough to teach you and challenge you and may have seen more in you than you saw in yourself.”
Passing along Pat Summitt’s advice to “control what you can control,” Thornton explained why having a positive attitude, working hard, treating others as you would like to be treated and taking care of your body are vitally important.
And from his own experiences, Thornton encouraged students to set high goals, work with passion and not be afraid of making mistakes or facing adversity.
He told the crowd that after founding American Rug Craftsmen in 1984 with one tufting machine, yarn and one machine operator, he built his company with the help of young Maryville College graduates recommended to him by men’s basketball coach, Randy Lambert ’76, who is also a personal friend.
“This [success at American Rug Craftsmen] could not have been achieved without the energy, intensity and spirit of the graduates hired from Maryville College,” he told members of the Class of 2013. “You are from the same educational culture – many of you have lived in the same dorms and been taught by the same great caring professors.”
Charge to the Class of 2013
In his charge to the Class of 2013, Maryville College President Dr. William T. “Tom” Bogart told the graduates to depart from the College with more than a diploma.
“Leave here transformed by your experience and dedicated to following and demonstrating the will of God through your thoughts and actions,” he said. “As you continue in your journey, please remember that you always have a home here where Chilhowee’s lofty mountains pierce the Southern blue. Come back and share with us your successes and struggles, as you have done during your time here. Be the inspiration for the next person the way that others have inspired you. Say ‘thank you’ to those who have helped you during your time here, and let us thank you for how you have helped us.
“The Lord bless you and keep you as you continue your journey,” the president said as he concluded his remarks to the new graduates.