Mendoza School of Business

Invaluable lessons

Author: Karen Broderick Tourville (BBA '79)

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Back in the fall of 1976, my sophomore year at Notre Dame was about to begin and it was time to start taking classes in our designated colleges. At that point in time, the Mendoza College of Business was located in the Hayes-Healy building. It was a relatively straight walk from Lyons Hall and it’s where most business majors spent the majority of their day. Suffice to say, there were not a lot of women in those classes. The women at Notre Dame knew the ratio of men to women was 7 to 1 when they agreed to come, so it wasn’t unexpected when you found yourself in a small class with only a handful of other women in the room. I only had one professor who would address the class as “gentlemen,” even if there were women sitting in the front row, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter or offend anyone. What did matter was the content of the courses, and the challenge of taking those first business courses. They were hard. The concepts were all new. Accounting was especially challenging for me. I earned a D on a test for the first time in my life, and it was mathematically impossible to turn that ship around in time for my final grade. My accounting professor told me that if I earned an A on the final exam, he would give me an A for the class. It was an invaluable lesson in giving others a second chance and showing compassion when someone is struggling. Back home in New Jersey over the Christmas break, I opened the envelope with my final grades and saw that he had honored his promise to me. There it was, another invaluable lesson, to do what we say we are going to do.

Sophomore year was ending in the spring of 1977, and we all had to declare our respective majors. By then, I had figured out that earning my degree in marketing was going to be my path to a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and thankfully, I could do it without taking another accounting course. The fall of 1977 arrived and junior year began with enthusiasm and excitement as the classes became relevant to our majors. It also didn’t hurt that Joe Montana was leading our football team towards a national championship and he happened to be in my management class. Marketing is built on teamwork, team projects, cooperation and collaboration amongst the team members. Learning to work as a member of a team was another invaluable lesson for a life spent in business. Sometimes the team is hindered by a weak link, sometimes the balance of work is unfair, and sometimes we end up on a team where each of the members elevates one another. When that happens, as it did when we presented a project to the Board of Trustees at St. Joseph Bank in downtown South Bend, the power of a team shines bright and it teaches us to trust in one another.

Senior year in the business school and our time is now split between learning and searching for a job. Interviewing opportunities are plentiful. Back then, there were lines outside the offices in the basement of the administration building as seniors arrived in suits to impress the big eight accounting firms and the almighty recruiters from Proctor and Gamble. Finance and accounting majors seemed to have a lopsided advantage over the marketing and management majors, but everyone was on the treadmill of searching for a job or an acceptance to graduate school, law school or medical school. Real life is looming and it can be frightening. Big decisions are being made by 21-year-olds and the outcome of those decisions could have life-altering consequences. Another invaluable lesson surfaces as these big decisions are being contemplated. Trusting your instincts and putting your faith in the right place, beginning with your faith in God is another invaluable lesson. The faith foundation that Notre Dame provides becomes the anchor for a life in business. There will be storms in life. They come in the form of financial challenges, difficult clients, disappointing outcomes, uncontrollable events, job losses and a host of other issues that cannot be predicted or prevented. But through it all, if you have faith in God, and you hand it over to him when the winds start to blow and the storm is swirling around you, none of that will seem to matter because He will be in control of the situation. It is precisely that faith that will get you through life’s most difficult days and it will sustain you to carry on so that you can enjoy so many of life’s most wonderful days.

Topics: BBA