Duan Hobbs headshot
© Josh Muir Photography

Duan Hobbs, C'13, Alumni Commencement Speaker

May 10, 2022

SPCS Commencement

Duan Hobbs, C'13, was nominated by members of the SPCS Alumni Association Board of Directors to receive the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award for 2022
Annette Ardler headshot
Annette Ardler, C’01, giving Hobbs’ remarks on his behalf

Duan Hobbs, C’13, a 2013 graduate of the University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies, was nominated by members of the SPCS Alumni Association board of directors to receive the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award at SPCS 2022 Commencement Exercises on May 7, 2022. 

As award winner, Hobbs was to address graduating students during the ceremony. However, Hobbs was unable to attend the ceremony. In his stead, Annette Ardler, C’01, SPCS Alumni Association president, gave Hobbs’ address.

In his speech, read by Ardler and reproduced below, Hobbs encouraged graduating students to start, and keep track, of an “I’ve never” list that they then follow up by doing those things they’ve never done.

Video Address

Starts with Annette Ardler’s introduction of Hobbs as Gibb Family award recipient.

Commencement Address

Voiced by Annette Ardler, written by Duan Hobbs

To President Hallock, Dean Wilson, faculty, alumni, graduates, family and friends... good morning! I am honored to receive the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni award this year. When I received the call from Dean Wilson to inform me about the award, I was a bit surprised. After the call I thought about the first time I met Dean Wilson. It was here at the Robins Center for an SPCS homecoming event in one of the hospitality areas. After our brief conversation, in closing I casually mentioned, “I may think about joining the alumni association.” Without hesitation she responded, “I’m going to hold you to your word.” If you know anything about Dean Wilson, if she says it, she’s going to deliver.

I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be on the SPCS alumni board with the previous four Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award winners, Margaret Dalton, Eric Beatty, Greg Mays and Robert Reed. Robert and I were in the Weekend College cohort together, and the person that officially approached me to join the SPCS Alumni Board. We all share the love for the University and the alumni. I’m dating myself a little, but there was a group of Michigan freshman basketball players in the early 90’s that came to be known as the “Fab 5.”  We definitely aren’t freshmen, but I think the moniker is appropriate.

At the first of the year, I transitioned from Sales & Account Management into the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion space. I’ve always been an active leader or participant in our employee resource groups, but I’d never managed DE&I at this level. For the past 4 or 5 months, I’ve been analyzing data, creating presentations, and working on new processes to better our DE&I efforts. A group that embodies DE&I is our SPCS Alumni Board.  

When most people think of diversity, it’s race, gender, or age. But, when you look deeper, our diversity transcends those obvious physical traits. It’s our differences of thought, introverts vs. extroverts, the various academic majors, communication styles, cultures and values that make us affective. Everyone’s voice is valued, whether it’s the president’s, committee chair or board member. The most important piece is creating the inclusive environment where each board member can be their whole self, which is key to performing at our optimum levels.

Another strength of our SPCS Alumni Board is the high caliber people, which is critical when leading. During the past five or six years, the SPCS alumni board has evolved. New ideas, processes and innovation have elevated our engagement with both students and alumni. I had the privilege of being elected president of the SPCS Alumni Association last year. I’d never been president of anything before, much less in the middle of a pandemic. There was an interesting dynamic to the group; nearly half the board was new, starting their first term. As we introduced ourselves, I asked each person, “Why did you want to be on the board?” The reason for the overwhelming majority was they wanted to give back to the University. That was my answer as well.  

The University of Richmond has opened numerous doors for me. I felt the bare minimum I could do was volunteer my time. To all the graduates, it will open many doors for you as well. This has been an incredible journey, starting with an orientation listening to Professor Elisabeth Wray talk about the Weekend College program, to standing on the stage today accepting this award. I think it’s fair to say, I wouldn’t be up here if it wasn’t for the SPCS Alumni Board. It has allowed me to meet incredible people, hone leadership skills, and have a ton of fun while doing it. Each of you can now leave your unique fingerprint on the University or the board with your time, energy, and effort. Take advantage of the opportunity.

Thank you to the everyone who helped me along the way. NiSource/Columbia Gas of Virginia has been super supportive during my tenure on the Board. Dean Wilson, James Campbell and his team are the superstars behind the scenes. Thank you to all the board members over the past five years. A special thank you to my wife, Kesia, my children, Jaiden and Kingston, and my mother and grandmother and other friends and family. 

To the graduates in closing, I referenced a couple of professional examples of opportunities that I’d never done before. Although I wasn’t 100% sure how I would perform, someone believed I would be successful in the role. I want you to start keeping an “I’ve never list.” Walking across this stage just opened the door for more opportunities. In two to three years, look at your list. I think you will be surprised at the amount of ground you’ve covered. Congratulations and thank you.

The University of Richmond has opened numerous doors for me. I felt the bare minimum I could do was volunteer my time. To all the graduates, it will open many doors for you as well.
Duan Hobbs, C¿13
Gibb Family Alumni Award Recipient

Biographical Sketch

Duan Hobbs graduated from the School of Professional & Continuing Studies Weekend College program in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, later earning a Customer Experience certificate in 2020. He is the current past president of the SPCS Alumni Association Board of Directors after serving as president, vice president and on various committees in previous years. Duan started his career at NiSource in 2015 and was recently promoted to the role of manager of diversity, equity & inclusion.