Remarks by Stela Maksutaj ’17


I’d like to share a story with all of you. It’s about when I was 7-years-old.

I told my mom I wanted to save someone’s life. That was my dream.

So, I decided I wanted to become a doctor because that was the only logical, literal way I knew how.

And then high school anatomy happened.

I thought watching the TV show, Greys Anatomy would help.

Well it didn’t.

So, I chose the next best thing to med school ... business school, of course.

And as I started my journey at Babson College I knew one thing. I was here to find my purpose, my calling, a way to use a Business Degree to help people.

To help people, how would I do this?

Well I started to observe.

And after four years of observing I had few epiphanies about the world –

A major one being that most people don’t realize what they live for.

Most people forget to stop and cherish interactions.

A recent study conducted by Nielsen says the average person in the U.S. spends 4.7 hours on their phone a day.

That’s 23 years of your life, on your phone.

It’s important that we start looking up, start being present, because you might be missing out on a moment you’ll never get back.

A moment you shared with someone, or more importantly, a moment you impacted someone. After a while, moments start to blend together.

So, I began asking myself a question that might help you ... What wakes you up in the morning? Not what keeps you up at night, but, what gets you out of bed? Now, there will always be the mundane tasks we are committed to, our routine like maybe, work at 7 in the morning, practice, meetings, tests, or some graduation in the middle of Massachusetts you have to get to.

But that’s not what I mean when I ask.

I mean, when you open your eyes in the morning and you’re staring at your ceiling, what motivates you to get your day going? While trying to answer these questions myself, I remembered an interaction that I wouldn’t have remembered unless I was present.

Because I was present, I found a purpose.

Last semester I was in the Dunks line as usual, my daily routine, I had forgotten my umbrella and it was pouring rain, my hair was dripping water.

I was just miserable.

Now, let me introduce you to Woody. Woody is the cashier at Dunkin Donuts, and has memorized my order for the past four years—bagel with butter and cream cheese, and a medium sweet tea. Woody is the type of man that asks you how your day is going, every day.

He greets you with kindness and enthusiasm, and has worked at Babson College for the last 33 years. This particular rainy morning, he asked me how my day was going and I had trouble answering. My eyes filled with tears as I looked down, but it took one look back up to be greeted with that Woody smile. While handing over my sweet tea, Woody responded, “Don’t worry, it always gets better tomorrow.” Woody, you might not remember this interaction but I will never forget it.

What you didn’t know, was my mom’s diagnosis the night before.

Stage IV Lymphoma.

The news came suddenly, and like anything heart wrenching, turned my world upside down.

In the depths of my heartache, I woke up due to routine that morning, not purpose.

I was just like most Babson students, packed with a heavy leadership schedule in addition to a full course load. Overnight, I went from student to a caretaker that lived four hours away.

Your words, Woody, started to wake me up. All because I was present.

My family’s positivity gave me strength at home, though I found my struggles surfaced during my time apart from my mom.

I realized that I had a community to fall back on, a community that didn’t judge or waver in times of struggle, because at one point, they struggled too. It was the Babson community, it’s all of you that uplifted my spirits.

It was people like Linda Grant, receptionist at the Career Center, which shared her own vulnerabilities to mentor me and act as a model of bravery.

Yana Bliznakova, a friend and sister that sat up restless nights and brought me endless jars of Nutella—now that’s what I call friendship.

My Babson, our Babson, is responsible for kindling a broken spirit. Here’s another epiphany,

Babson teaches you more than just accounting and finance.

What you really take away are the experiences outside of the classroom, faculty taught me to work with purpose, staff taught me to be kind and present, and my peers taught me to persevere in times of struggle.

It becomes clear that the Babson community is extraordinary, and it is those like Woody that deserve to be recognized for their kindness.

All this reminiscing brings me back to 7-years-old, when I told my mom I wanted to save a life.

Now, at 21-years-old, I realized that while I may never be able to physically save someone’s life,

I could make an incredible impact.

Just like Woody did on me, and he was right.

It did get better tomorrow. My mom is sitting in the crowd, still fighting with resilience and grace. So through the rollercoaster of life, the question remains. What wakes you up in the morning?

I’ll tell you that my family does.

The one at home, and the Babson one, which will spread around the world in just a few hours. I’ll tell you, that I wake up every morning in hopes that a single interaction with someone, even a stranger, might indeed save their life.

So, be present. Find purpose.

And I’ll ask one last time, what will wake you up tomorrow?

Congratulations to the Class of 2017.