Commencement Speaker: Lifetime of public service has shaped Tim Schultz
“I hope the student body isn’t disappointed,” Tim Schultz muses. “I think of commencement speakers as astronauts that have gone to the moon. I don't think I’m worthy.”
Schultz, who will deliver the Commencement address at the June 9 undergraduate ceremony, may be downplaying things a bit.
Sure, he may not have space travel on his resume, but his career path, by nearly any measure, has been meteoric.
The small-town kid has been a baker, a banker, a rancher, a politician, a philanthropist. But ask Schultz, 69, who he is and he opts for “none of the above.”
“I'm a connecter,” he says. “I have been given a gift. My mind works in a way that puts people together that wouldn't normally meet because there's a commonality they may not know they have.”
Though his career has changed course on many occasions, his guide has been an ability to form relationships and understand others. From the counter of his parents’ Grand Junction bakery to the corner office of the Boettcher Foundation, where he served as president and executive director, listening and giving have paved his way.
That and, Schultz will tell you, being in the right place at the right time. How else, he reasons, could a new grad with a political science degree become the youngest vice president at United Bank? By age 24 he was his local school board, and by 25 he was the state’s youngest county commissioner — after the longtime incumbent bowed out and a charismatic and confident Schultz knocked on every door in the deeply divided Rio Blanco County.
“You can't always walk in somebody else's shoes, but you've got to talk to people and got to have empathy and understand maybe a little bit of what it's like to be in that position,” he says. “Give them a voice, give them a chance to be heard.”
Before long, the governor had appointed him to lead the Department of Agriculture. Then it was on to the top job at the Department of Local Affairs.
And then he stops the lunchtime interview.
“That's too much about me,” he says, “and I'm real uncomfortable talking about me. But maybe there's a way to weave in some of the themes?”
Schultz is referring, of course, to the address he will deliver to DU’s Class of 2018 — an honor that both scares and humbles him. He plans to talk, not about himself, but about what he has learned throughout a long and winding professional life. He will not quote Gandhi, he says, but college students and the Boettcher Scholars he has helped reach higher education over the years. He hopes he can teach the senior class the value of service and human connection.
“I know this thing expands your network,” he says, shaking his cell phone. “But I don't know that having 2,000 Facebook friends is the same as having 100 real relationships.
“Money, to some degree, can bring you happiness. Hard work can bring some people happiness. Family can bring you happiness. But I don't think anything brings you the same contentment and happiness as giving to others.”