Stillman Alumnus Also Delivers Executive Speech at Stinson Auditorium
By David Miller
Dennis O. Driver smiled as he entered the president’s suite in the Harte Center on Stillman College’s campus Friday afternoon.
He acknowledged and fist-bumped Stillman executives, alumni, former Trustees, friends, faculty and student leaders before making his way to the front of the room. There, Stillman President Dr. Cynthia Warrick stood next to a pair of exhibit stands, both draped.
Chairman Emeritus Driver knew that this moment had been arranged to commemorate his seven-plus years as chairman of Stillman’s board of trustees and was both surprised and delighted when Warrick unveiled a portrait of him, painted by Frank Kelley, Jr.
“I can’t think about a day like today without reflecting on the sweat, and to be quite candid, the tears that were involved in helping identify the ways in which to continue to move Stillman forward,” Driver said following the ceremony.
Driver’s tenure on the board ended earlier this summer. His successor, Donald Comer, said Driver and Warrick have created “a wave” of exciting opportunities for the College.
Driver and Warrick have guided the college through Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accreditation, and they led the charge for HBCUs to receive significant debt relief through the federal government’s Capital Finance Program.
“My dream was for Stillman to turn things around, and we have made a significant turn,” Driver said. “I’m grateful for where we are, however, we also still have a lot of work to do.”
Driver said hiring Warrick was a “significant” moment for his term as Board chair.
“I’m appreciative for Dr. Warrick, and all that she has been able to achieve during her time as president,” Driver said. “The key will be to continue to build upon and sustain the momentum.”
Driver holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stillman College. He serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Theravance Biopharmaceutical in San Francisco. Driver previously worked as an HR executive for several Johnson & Johnson businesses, including Biosense Webster, Inc., Scios, Inc. and Cordis Corporation.
Driver said his time as Board chair at his alma mater ranks just behind his corporate career, which has “fueled” his capacity to support the College financially, and allowed the time to lead as Board chair.
Minutes prior to the ceremony, Driver spoke to a campus audience at Stinson auditorium for the first executive speaker series address of the semester. There, he reflected on his time on campus, where he graduated at the top of his class, and shared the finer details of his career arc, from a Marine officer to a lengthy career as an HR executive.
He implored students to “be interested and be interesting.”
“Because, if you are interested in things, you’ll open yourself up to exploring and engaging new experiences,” Driver said. “When you do that, you’ll be in a position to learn and to share what you learn, and this facilitates an opportunity to meet and connect with others.”
Making and leveraging connections was one of several themes of Driver’s campus talk, and his advice was drawn from numerous professional experiences, including one just two months after he’d been named Board chair. Driver had traveled to San Antonio to meet with former Stillman Board member Houston Harte and his daughter, Sarah, who served as vice chairwoman of Stillman’s Board of Trustees.
“Houston Harte wanted to know what he could do to help Stillman,” Driver said. “To get that call, to meet with him and to share the challenges the college faced, and then, to have him respond with the largest single private donation in Stillman’s history ($2 million), that was a breakthrough moment.”
While the breakthrough moment was significant, Driver said there were also many granular moments that kept he and others on the board moving forward in spite of what felt like overwhelming circumstances.
“We just had to stick with it,” he said, “and believe that somehow, God would provide a way.”
Driver then closed by quoting poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“God’s gifts put’s man’s best dreams to shame.”