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Complete text of Matthew Costello's commencement address
Complete text of Matthew Costello's commencement address

Complete text of Matthew Costello's commencement address

Holy Ghost Prep alum Matthew Costello, an executive at Apple and Beats by Dr. Dre, delivered the commencement address to the Class of 2018 on June 2. Here are the words of wisdom that Costello shared during his speech.

“Provincial Duaime, President Geruson, Board Members, Faculty and Old Friends, thank you for this tremendous honor.

For the parents and families, who, I am sure much like my own parents 30 years ago, sacrificed so much in order to support your young man in reaching this incredible milestone, I wish you the most heartfelt congratulations.  

And, finally, to the graduates of Holy Ghost Preparatory School of the Class of 2018, I am absolutely certain that this group will be the most successful and distinguished group of graduates ever! How do I know this, you may ask? Well, there are seminal moments in each generation—and you have the distinction of being the first-ever generation of winners in Philadelphia history. Our Super Bowl win has changed everything for this city, lifting us from what felt like centuries of declining fortunes, despair, and frustration. 

I was at the November game in Los Angeles when Carson Wentz tore his ACL and lamented every day thereafter the sad but oh-so-very-Philly turn of events that had seemingly doomed us yet again.  But, on February 4th of this year, life was magically transformed for both the born and unborn of Philadelphia.  I find this phenomenon hard to explain to outsiders but Nick Foles sure gets it – he was in the Beats office a few weeks ago and mentioned that grown men regularly start crying when they see him, muttering repeated “thank yous” between sobs.

And so, while it maybe more traditional to anoint those “born” in this special year to be the founders of a new generation, I think we need to make an exception for this class of graduates.  You get the history but you are now unburdened and untethered—you can use this as a once-in-a-generation inflection point.  

Hence, I am formally declaring you the founding members of a new Generation – the Generation of E, with the branding inspired by our beloved Eagles. Move over Generation X and Y and Z.  Time for E.    I will send out a tweet shortly and then it will be so.

Maybe I should have established my credentials before such a proclamation so let me give you a bit of background.  I graduated from Holy Ghost in 1991 – truth be told, I was basically average in everything. After my first forensics tryout, Tony Figliola took me on as his personal reclamation project to remove the “stuff in my mouth.”  Tony Chapman realized that my one unique talent on a basketball court was to foul out so he and John Mundy conspired to turn me into a thrower for the track team. I actually won our league in shot put my senior year but I think John Mundy had arranged an eighth grader from Christopher Dock as the primary competition to make me feel better.  Kidding aside, my four years here were by far the most formative of my life and I am forever grateful to the faculty and friends whom enabled this.  

After leaving Holy Ghost in 1991, I went to Duquesne after some “encouragement” from Father McCloskey, graduating in 1995.   I realized over those years the special protections that God affords the Spiritans—on several occasions, I hitched a ride across the state of Pennsylvania with the Provincial at that time, Father Norm Bevan, who was an incredibly wonderful and inspirational man, but an absolutely terrifying driver who insisted to drive stick shifts.  I can tell you—success in navigating the Pennsylvania Turnpike S-curves in the winter will reaffirm anyone’s faith in God when you were a passenger with Father Bevan at the wheel, God Rest His Soul.

The Spiritans have remained an incredibly important part of my and my families’ life throughout our journey, and I am so grateful to have founded many of these relationships here.  I recently had the honor of being appointed to Duquesne’s board of directors, so I will look forward to seeing our Duquesne Presidential Scholars Ryan Taylor and Sean Kerrigan around campus and will buy you dinner while you’re there. Congratulations to you both!

Upon graduating from Duquesne, I joined the same consulting firm that President Geruson is an alum of, called Andersen. I interned for President Geruson when he joined Holy Ghost as the assistant headmaster in the early 90’s and I was amazingly impressed with how one individual could build lists that spanned several notepads and still remember where that one item for me to follow-up on was located. After watching him that summer, I was sold that management consulting would help me become—at the very least—better organized. In fact, on top of my education, it was one of the most formative periods of my career: teaching me how to think, solve problems and communicate effectively across a range of problem sets and environments.  

From there, I would go on to meet and marry my lifetime love and partner, Liselott, who was born in Sweden. We would have the privilege of raising three wonderful kids—one of whom—my absolutely amazing 15-year-old daughter Annika—is here with me today.  

We would become global citizens, having lived in 12 cities in eight different countries across Europe, Asia and the U.S. I would have the privilege to work both as a partner in some of the world’s largest consulting firms—Andersen and Booz Allen Hamilton—and, starting in 2006, join the leadership of some of the world’s great companies, first with Sony-Ericsson in Sweden, then HTC Corporation in Taiwan, then IKEA of Sweden, and finally, today on the West Coast with Apple and, its subsidiary, Beats by Dr Dre.  

As I reflect on where I am today—responsible for Hardware Engineering and Operations for Apple and for the Beats brand as the Chief Operating Officer, I can still sometimes openly wonder about how all of these things came to be. Some of you today possibly have a “grand gameplan” and know where you want to be in 20 years. Others, like me in 1991, didn’t/don’t have a clue. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter, you of Generation “E” have four main superpowers whether you know it or not:

First, You are the Enlightened Generation. This is not just the amazing training you have received here but also the curiosity about life and learning that you will take with you. Education is a lifelong process, not something that ends only in a diploma. Enlightenment is the process of learning and continuing to push yourself to get better.

You will seek out mentors for guidance and support moreso than any previous generation.  I learned early on how critically important learning and leaning on others can be to help navigate the non-linear path of life. I have had strong mentors at each stage in my career and had the benefit of a “life” mentor at home in my wife throughout.

Always remember that asking for “help” and “advice” is a sign of strength, not weakness. And you will not be too proud to admit when you are wrong.  I am constantly wrong and I surround myself with people who are not afraid to tell me that. This makes everyone better around you, creates a true team culture and makes everything more fun along the way. 

Second, You are the Environmental Generation. Yes, you will be the generation that will need to address climate change. But my point is different—you are a product of the environment you create for yourself, and the wider you cast your net to understand the environment and its possibilities in the world around you, the better and bigger life will be.

Understanding the underlying strengths of different cultures—Swedish, English, Danish, American, Taiwanese, Japanese, etc.—will be your secret skill to unlock big problems as we increasingly realize that our strengths can be blended together to offset our inherent limitations. We are wired differently across the world—from our upbringings to our educational systems—but learning that the symphony of life is made up of many different instruments that you can assemble around you is how you can change the nature of your environment for the better.

Third, You are the Evolving Generation. Keep going until you find what you are born to do. And until you find what you are born to do, do what you must. Don’t be afraid of hard work.

Along the road, I have found that I’ve often stumbled unexpectedly upon what I “love to do” simply by doing what I’ve “needed to do.” As a wise man once said: “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

In 2010, we decided to move from the comfy confines of Sweden to a small island off the coast of Southern China, otherwise known as Taiwan. It was there that a company called HTC was working to pioneer the smartphone industry. I knew that it would be incredibly different and even risky, but I also knew that HTC would be a unique place to gain the “hands-on” experience in high tech engineering and operations that I had been missing.  They were an incredible four years for us a family—and for me, very sleepless—but we knew that living in Taiwan was a necessary “stop” on the way and not the final destination for our family.

Midway through my time at HTC, we made an acquisition of this Hollywood startup called Beats by Dr. Dre, founded by Jimmy Iovine, the godfather of the music industry in Hollywood and Andre Young – a.k.a. Dr. Dre – the legendary artist and producer and I was appointed to the Board to help stand up the company.   When my oldest daughter, Ellinor, heard that I was chilling with Dr Dre in LA, she started telling me: “Dad you are so un-cool that your are cool.” I can vividly remember sitting in my first Board meeting with Jimmy and Dre in my “Holy Ghost Prep-inspired” sportscoat, blue-collared shirt and khaki pants that I carried with me for 20 plus years after graduation. Thanks to my wife and daughters, who now dress me, khakis and collared shirts have been officially discarded for jeans and hoodies.

Ironically, when Dre and Jimmy noticed the change in my dress code, they tried to hire me as their Chief Operating Officer. We were actually on our way back to Europe at the time to work for IKEA when we got the call about Beats. So, in a six-month period, we were residents of Taiwan, Sweden, the Netherlands and, ultimately, Los Angeles. Six months after this, Beats was bought by Apple.

Today, my team and I are strategizing, designing, engineering, and building consumer electronics of all kinds under the Apple and Beats by Dr. Dre brands.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that, sitting in your chair 27 years ago, I had absolutely zero clue that this would be the evolution and fulfillment of my life’s work.

Finally, You are the Enthusiastic Generation. Keep a positive attitude and don’t take yourself too seriously. There are not too many true geniuses out there. Most of us can get by on talking straight, thinking straight, staying humble, seeking good advice and being a decent human being who makes mistakes and, ideally, can learn from them and laugh at themselves along the way. And always stay “Philly” – there is something endearing and truly unique about being from this place.

So, there it is, Generation E: The Enlightened, The Environmentalists, the Evolvers, the Enthused, all inspired by our beloved Eagles.  

When one of you is giving this speech in 27 years, I am absolutely positive that the world will have transformed itself in ways that are unforeseen today.  It is likely that in your lifetime, we will travel to and perhaps even colonize another planet, machines will be autonomously running parts of our daily life and how we travel, interact and communicate will be completely different than today. My generation is laying some of these foundations, but your generation will bring it to life. That will take new skills and crazy ideas that your education and training here has prepared you for in more ways that you can ever possibly fathom sitting here today.  

I am genuinely excited to see what you will do with the world you will create and am humbled to have been able to share with you some perspectives as you set off.  I congratulate each of you and wish all the very best.”