Ackermann delivers ‘Last Lecture’
Kevin Song | Tuesday, February 18, 2014
For students, making service work a high priority can be difficult if cultivating a promising career takes precendence, but professor of finance Carl Ackermann thinks it doesn’t have to be.
Ackermann delivered the first talk of this year’s student government-sponsored Last Lecture series Tuesday night in the Coleman-Morse Center lounge. He spoke on his personal growth and service, reflected on his career and encouraged students to put themselves in uncomfortable situations.
“The single experience where I learned the most in my life was refereeing soccer games in an ethnically-focused league in Boston,” he said. “In that league, I had to … communicate with the players who often didn’t speak English, often in very heated situations.
“So I’ve actually been sworn at in dozens of languages. If you place yourself in unfamiliar situations, … you will mature much faster as a person.“Ackermann said doing service work and appreciating the little things in life go hand-in-hand. He challenged students to maintain their commitments to serving others.
“One of the things that I admire most about Notre Dame students is the extraordinary amount of service that all of [them] do … two hours, here and there, fitting it in when possible,” he said. “No matter how tired you are, do the make the extra effort to make at least one person smile every day. You will bring so much joy to others and happiness that will return to you.”
Ackermann also encouraged students to learn about nutrition and personal finance, as serving others begins with being able to care for oneself.
“By gaining command of your personal finances, you’ll actually be able to use your financial resources to service projects as well,” he said.
Ackermann walked into the lecture wearing a horse-head hat. He later explained the decision as a way to engage the audience.
“I always try to do something to lighten the mood at the beginning of a talk, so that people will feel like it’s going to be more fun and be more enthusiastic about it,” he said.
Ackermann told The Observer he put a lot of thought into crafting his lecture and making it appeal specifically to Notre Dame students.
“I think you’ve got three pieces — you talk about how wonderful Notre Dame students are and what you can learn from people individually,” he said. “Then I think they want to hear some suggestions about the future, mostly [about] career[s]. … And then, for me, I think that the defining part of my life, and for so many of the students here, is service, and you have to address that.”
Ackermann emphasized the role of service among students as valuable to both their short-term and long-term life goals.
“Trying to figure out how you can make the most of that element, I think right now, it takes the form of direct service, but as you acquire professional skills and acumen, you can do a lot more by embracing a leadership or policy role,” he said. “I think [students’] personal desire to do service, as strong as it is now, will only grow as they get older and have more resources and freedom.”
The Last Lecture series invites professors to deliver the talk they would give if it were the last in their career, not their actual last lecture. Still, Ackermann, a 2001, 2002 and 2009 Last Lecture veteran, said he plays it cautiously.
“When I used to schedule a Last Lecture, I would make sure I had class the next day to make sure it wasn’t the last one.”