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Dave Stockham '91, Cotopaxi VP, Encourages Graduates to Define Their Futures
Posted 06/09/2017 11:16AM

"Define what you want, and then ask for what you want. If you don't find it where you are, create it." This advice was at the heart of Rowland Hall alumnus Dave Stockham's speech at the breakfast welcoming the class of 2017 into the Alumni Association. A member of the class of 1991, Mr. Stockham is currently the vice president of sales at Cotopaxi, an outdoor retail company focused on creating sustainable products while helping to alleviate poverty worldwide.

Mr. Stockham appealed to the soon-to-be graduates with a mix of humor, anecdotes, and hope, emphasizing that they all have the power to shape their own futures. He encouraged them to not just define what they want, but to write it down, whether it be a list of things to accomplish in one day—with a nod to Ferris Bueller's infamous day off in Chicago—or the outline of a five-year plan. He shared his own to-do list from the conclusion of his senior year at Rowland Hall, which included working as a river guide, graduating from college in four years, and living to be 30, all goals he successfully reached. Mr. Stockham also advocated for any interested young graduate to leave Utah and live in other places, but beware of "Utah's elastic band effect," because this state has booming industries and natural resources that may very well draw them back.

Ultimately, his message was one of self-fulfillment through adventure and hard work. Mr. Stockham told the seniors that while ideas aren't rare, people who put in the effort to develop their ideas are extremely rare, and he believed that everyone in the room was capable of being one of those people. He advocated collaboration and networking—especially within the Rowland Hall community—and stressed that perfectionism can be defeating. "Oftentimes, 30% of the work is enough to help others understand what you're trying to have happen and for them to help build it," he said. "Over time, it will become perfect."

The young entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, and scientists in the room, along with those who don't quite know yet what they want to do, could all glean something from Mr. Stockham's speech. He acknowledged that while defining what you want can be difficult, life is also meant to be fun, which is what he heard from the guest speaker at his senior breakfast in 1991. "Life is better than you can plan," Mr. Stockham said in closing. So while these young graduates head out into the world and make lists of things they want to accomplish—which Mr. Stockham hopes will include tackling issues such as gender disparity in the workplace—they can expect a few surprises and detours along the way.

After graduating from Rowland Hall, Mr. Stockham earned his Bachelor of Arts in international political science from Bates College, and worked various jobs in internet sales and business development before taking on his current role at Cotopaxi. He is a member of Rowland Hall's Entrepreneur Circle and a proud father of three.

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