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OREM — President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Mary C. Daly told Utah Valley University's 2022 graduates to be "unmistakably and unapologetically you" in her commencement speech at the UCCU Center on Friday evening.
Daly, who dropped out of high school at the age of 15, said she met someone who encouraged her to go college. She eventually earned a bachelor's degree from University of Missouri Kansas City, and then went on to get a doctorate from Syracuse University. And, as the story goes, she became the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Daly said that as she climbed the ladder she thought she needed to fit the mold of an economist, and in turn lost herself.
"In my early years … I felt the need to fit into a certain mold," Daly said. "When I went shopping, I bought pearls and skirt suits, even a scoop neck sweater. … My outfit choice most days back then, I dressed as a person I thought people wanted to see. … I became economist Mary, rather than just Mary, and that mindset permeated everything."
"In conversation with colleagues, I was careful not to veer into topics that were too personal," Daly said. "I would try not to reveal too much of my background. I kept the focus on work, job and my contribution so that people couldn't judge what they don't know. … The irony of course is that no one actually asked me to play a role. I had done this to myself. And when I started to understand that, I started to change. Gradually, little by little, I shed the pearls and the skirts, and I let my hair be wild."
Daly said that as she developed her sense of self, her career took off. She spoke about making sure when writing a cover letter to potential employers that hers reflected who she truly was, and she encouraged graduates to do the same.
"Be yourself and stay true to who you are," Daly said. "Being yourself isn't a switch that you can simply turn on; It's a journey of discovery and it's one that you will have to take over and over again. You may lose yourself here and there. You may drift away from the person you know you are. … In those times, you might do as I did and take refuge behind a mask of your own making, and that's OK. It's part of being human. There is safety in conformity."
"Being yourself, especially when yourself is different from others, can feel risky. … But as you embark on your careers, as you stretch for new things and find yourself in unfamiliar places, find your way back and return to the core of who you are. That is a place where your greatness will grow."
"You are the sum total of every experience, every trial and every hardship that you have endured, and the singular equation is your superpower. … My wish for you is that you will see the things you are most afraid to reveal. … That your bravery will fly in the face of the worry and the fear and all the other feelings that arise when we strive for something more. And most of all, I hope your letter will be unmistakably and unapologetically you."
During the program, Daly was awarded a honorary degree in public service.
Following the program, UVU awarded a total of 14 degrees to 11,064 students, which was the largest graduating class in the school's 81 years. The youngest graduate was 16 years old, and the oldest was "77 years young." Thirty percent of the students were over the age of 25, and 35% were the first in their families to complete their college degrees.