Mark Prior Gives Graduation Speech At USC Ceremony

May 14, 2004

Mark Prior Graduation Speech from USC's Marshall School of Business

I'm honored and privileged to be standing here in front of everyone on one of the most special days in your life. They say getting married, having kids and graduating from college are the three events that you will always remember. Well, I graduated and I'm married, so I guess I have only one more, I guess.

As I thought about what I should say to the this class of 2004, it was suggested that I talk about what my degree would mean to me or how USC has been a big part of my life. When I think back about it, I'm sure we all have similar experiences. I'm sure everyone has had experiences, hopefully more positive than negative. Some of the things that I have experienced in the last two or three years, especially in baseball, hopefully I can express to you and help you in the long run.

Even though I don't have to put on a suit every morning at 8 a.m., we all have one thing in common and that's fear. Call it fear of the unknown, fear of failure or just fear that you can't schedule your social life around your classes. (crowd laughter) Anyway you look at it, these things are always intimidating. Everything seems to scare you at first. When I was drafted out of high school by the New York Yankees, I decided to turn them down to pursue an education. (crowd applause) I thought it was the hardest decision I ever had to made, but I figured I wanted to see where the next three or four years would take me.

I started at Vanderbilt University, but unfortunately, things didn't work out. I decided to transfer to USC to continue my education. I'm sure we all remember that first day we attended USC. Where would we live? Who would be our classmates? And how would we eat somewhere else besides Caf� 84? All of those things scared me. Fortunately, I was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and given a chance to play professional baseball once again. It was a dream come true to be given a second chance. I was pitching at Wrigley Field against players that I had grown up idolizing my entire life. You talk about being nervous and being scared? All of these feelings I had are natural. I know a lot of you are sitting out there going 'well, I don't play baseball' and 'I have to find a job' and 'I have to make money on my own.' I understand these differences, but just because I'm playing baseball and you are doing something different, we all have our fears of the unknown.

My message to you today is to trust your abilities. Take each day one at a time. You are not going to become the chairman of Disney overnight (referring to Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, who spoke following Prior) and I'm sure Mr. Cook can relate to this. Trust in your abilities. You would not be sitting here today if you were not qualified to make it in the real world. You have worked hard, just like I have, to be where you are today. Many of you have doubts and many of you are still looking for jobs. Either way, there are going to be times where life keeps you down, when things aren't exactly what you envisioned coming out of college. Be confident and positive. Let your abilities carry you to success and take it one step at a time. It's what I tell myself every day. It's what gets me through the tough stretches. Having a degree from USC is a major accomplishment for me, as well as it should be for you. (USC Associate) Dean Ellis alluded to the fact that I'm only one of 17 current major leaguers with a college degree. (Chicago Cubs pitcher) Greg Maddux told me yesterday, 'Boy, you are overqualified for this job.' (crowd laughter) You think I'm proud of that comment? You bet I am. Your degree is something that no one can take away from you. Your degree will open up doors that would never be offered otherwise. I will always remember where I come from. You should trust in our SC family because we are always looking out for each other. Thank you.

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