Business Building

Lockheed Martin Executive Craig Happel Defines the Life of a “Doer” at Commencement

Craig Happel     June 1, 2012—Craig Happel (’82), deputy to the Vice President of Business Ventures at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, was the speaker for the College of Business commencement ceremonies held on Sunday, May 13. This commencement was the first of the college’s ceremonies to be held at the new College Park Center.
In his role at Lockheed Martin, Craig is responsible for improving the process discipline in the estimating and contracts processes for the changing business environment.
Prior to his current assignment, Craig was the F-35 Chief Financial Officer for over ten years. He was responsible for developing and implementing business strategies ensuring the success of the F-35, a program worth over $25 billion.
Over his twenty-five years with Lockheed Martin, Craig has been awarded a Corporate NOVA Award for Leadership as well as multiple Aero Star Awards for Leadership. He is a graduate of the UT Arlington College of Business and he completed his executive training from the University of Michigan School of Business.
The following is the transcript of Craig Happel's commencement address.

Commencement Address
UT Arlington College of Business
May 13, 2012

President Spaniolo, Dean Himarios, Dr. Gray, Dr. Mack, professors, faculty and staff, family, friends, and 2012 graduates,

How about this College Park Center? This place is unbelievable. What a great venue for a great occasion. Graduation at UTA will never be the same. Athletics at UTA will never be the same. UTA will never be the same. This building has become the envy of all Metroplex colleges and universities.

I am truly honored to be with you today to celebrate your great achievements.

When Dr. Gray asked me to be your commencement speaker I had this troubling thought: What am I going to tell these graduates that you don’t already know? After all you are UTA graduates.

First, each of you needs to be extremely proud of your efforts that help you complete this journey. There is just something different about a UTA graduate. There is a quality that you have that sets you apart from other graduates. UTA graduates seem to have a sense of confidence about them. They know how to rise to the occasion and they don’t back away from challenges. UTA graduates don’t seem to have this sense of entitlement. They have a sense of purpose. They don’t show up at the job and say, “where’s my promotion?” Instead they show up early for the job, work late and earn the promotion.

UTA graduates are a diverse group. They know how to work well with others and they are exceptional team players. UTA graduates already know how to multi-task. Most of you have jobs and have been balancing work and school for years. UTA graduates know how to work. They know how to sacrifice and they know what it takes to get the job done. UTA graduates strive beyond expectations.

And they don’t let others define who they are or what they can become.

UTA graduates are prepared to work. The old saying goes, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Well, that's UTA. The students were ready and the teachers appeared.

UTA graduates have an energy, a focus that propels them to greatness. That energy and focus makes each of you a very valuable commodity and industry is waiting for and needs you.

So, today, one journey ends and another one begins. And with this new journey comes new challenges. When I am confronted with a new challenge I look for inspiration. My inspiration comes from my two heroes, my grandfather and my dad. My family is from Bangor, Pennsylvania a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania. The area was known for coal mines, slate quarries, and blouse mills.

My grandfather was the oldest of six children that had to live through the depression of the 1930’s. Times were very hard for them. He only had a sixth grade education because he had to go to work to help take care of his brothers and sister. His one room school house is still standing today.

My grandfather lived to be 93. He was a fiery little guy. Despite his limited education, he was extremely smart and he believed anything was possible. He believed if you put your mind to it that you could make anything happen. Throughout his life I watched him do some amazing things. He could build anything and he could figure out any problem.

He had this saying that he would use: “Never beat yourself.” Every time there was a challenge for me as a kid he would always remind me to be prepared for anything and, “never beat yourself.” He would tell me in order to be successful, you have to be prepared. You have to have a plan and then you must have a backup plan in case something doesn’t work out.

As part of this he would tell me you have to always look at yourself and your surroundings. He told me to never take anything for granted. He’d say, “Craig, know your strengths and understand your weaknesses.” He’d say, “You need to be honest with yourself and you must never be satisfied because someone is always going to be better.”

I was able to learn from my grandfather for over 40 yrs. I try to carry his passion with me every day. I try to pass it on to others. His words drive me every day: “Never beat yourself.”

Growing up, my dad would ask my brother and me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer was always the same: “Dad, we want to be pro athletes.”

Keep this in mind we grew up in a small Pennsylvania town where normally people are born there, grow up there, stay there, and die there. You don’t become pro athletes.

My brother Brian and I graduated from the smallest high school in Pennsylvania that had an athletics program. My graduating class had 46 people in it. Brian’s class was slightly over 50.

We told dad that we want to be different and we wanted something more. So, growing up, sports was a huge part of our lives. Our years were defined by three seasons not four: Baseball, Basketball, and Football.

We had this dream and dad was going to help us get there. People told my dad that we were crazy to have such a dream. People told us we would never amount to anything and we would never succeed. Dad opened every door available to help us to get us to our dream. He would take us to colleges and universities hours away from home and ask the coaches to teach us.

He was never too tired to practice with us. Weekends, after work; he was always there for us.
We would practice for hours. We would practice in all kinds of weather. He even put spot lights on the house so we could practice at night.

Sooner or later our friends would come by and want us to do something with them. They wanted us to stop practicing. Dad would ask us one question: “Do you want to be a watcher or a doer?”

He would say there’s nothing wrong with a watcher but it limits you.

To him, a doer was a person who could to make choices and sacrifice. You have to take responsibility. You have to be willing to go it alone if they had to fulfill a dream.

That saying drove us. Do you want to be a watcher or a doer?

We wanted to be doers. We wanted to make a difference. We wanted something more. Through practice and the guidance from dad we were able to live our dreams.

Brian’s in the UTA Hall of Fame as a kicker. He’s a 1983 graduate from the College of Business here at UTA. He lived his dream playing for multiple NFL teams. He is now the President of BBVA Compass for the Fort Worth Market.

I played baseball here at UTA. I graduated from the College of Business in 1982. I got to live my dream playing pro baseball for the Houston Astros minor league organization. I am now the Deputy Vice President of Business Ventures for Lockheed Martin.

We did our best to be doer’s just like he taught us. Throughout his years dad continued to help show us the way. His greatest lesson was how he lived the last three years of his life. He showed us what a true doer was all about. I watched him battle cancer for three years. I watched him take on his greatest challenge, even though he had to know it was not going to have a positive ending but he never showed it.

He showed me how to fight for life and help others in the process. It was not only a lesson for me. My three sons got to watch him in action. He made a difference in their lives too.

For three years he went to the Arlington Cancer Center every day for treatments. He knew they were going to fill him full of chemo trying to fight the melanoma. He knew it was going to make him sick and he knew he was going to feel horrible. But no matter what he’d always have this positive outlook.

He would show up at the cancer center with a smile, a hello, a hand shake, or his famous kisses to the cheeks of every nurse, doctor, and patient in the center. The other patients looked forward to dad showing up. There seemed to be a sense of hope every time he was there.

From the day he was told he had melanoma to the day God took him home, he never lost that focus. My dad was a true doer.

I try to pass on those lessons every day.

So, graduates, what does this all mean for you? Take these three points home with you:

One: take pride in being a UTA graduate. You have the advantage, use it. You are driven. You know how to multi-task, and you know how to work hard. It separates you apart and that makes you a great asset.

Two: Find your inspiration. Don’t beat yourself. Be prepared for every possible outcome. Have a plan. Make sure you have a backup plan. And be prepared for success.

Three: Don’t be a watcher, be a doer. Strive to be special. Be confident to be different. Don’t let anyone set your limitations. Press forward even when times are tough and don’t be afraid to help others.

I’ve talked today about grandfathers and fathers. I want to wish all the mothers in the audience a wonderful Mother's Day. Mothers, you've done so much for us we are so grateful to have you in our lives. Thanks for always being there.

Graduates, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your great day.

Good luck to all of you and God bless you.