Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ben May '68 "Casady: My Lifeline to the Future"

Recently in Chapel, our Middle and Upper Division students had a special visitor who had a truly inspirational message about his Casady foundation. 

Ben May, a member of Casady's Class of 1968, is a former executive with The Walt Disney Co., where he was Global Director of Corporate Alliances, responsible for the creation of multi-million dollar relationships for Disney with corporations, institutions, organizations, governments and countries. Based in Paris over the last two years, he was responsible for leading Disney’s corporate alliance development in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

You may watch his Chapel talk in its entirety on our website or on the Casady School Life YouTube channel: Ben May '68.

Mr. May in St. Edward's Chapel

Casady: My Lifeline to the Future
You know, working for the Walt Disney Company acquaints one with many stories. That’s what we do. We tell stories. One of the stories I have always liked is 1,001 Nights. One of those stories is that of Aladdin.

Have you ever carried a memory like an Aladdin’s lamp? You hold it tightly in your mind and heart, bringing it out only at special times, rubbing and polishing it to a crystal shine; then carefully putting it back in that special mental drawer for a bit more thought, always with great care and pride. This is the memory I have been carrying of Casady for over half a century. It is more than a memory. It is a living template that has informed my life with certain values and guidelines, some of which I have failed to uphold and others that have taken me places my imagination could never have begun to contemplate.

Now circumstances have allowed me to share this memory with you, personally, this morning. The thought of sitting in chapel takes me back immediately to the time when I was one of you-right in my seat in chapel-as though it were yesterday.

It is at Casady that my young adult life began although I didn't know it. I met my wife at Casady. Father Benedict Barnes, my Casady adviser, married us in the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor 48 years ago. My mother's ashes are scattered over Casady Lake. I never take my Casady ring off my finger as a reminder of who I am and what I can become.

My experience at Casady imprinted my life and led me every step to my future. And now that future has become my past. There will, hopefully, be more of a story to tell for the years I have left. But your story is just beginning. And that's why I’m telling my story now.

My hope for you- the students of Casady- is to understand how fortunate each of you are to be a part of the Casady family. And a family is what it is. It is a family dedicated to excellence, honor, honesty, integrity; kindness and compassion. Each of you has a story and much of it can begin here if you will embrace it.  

My story began in 1965 when I was 15 years old. My mother told me she thought it best for me to attend Casady as a sophomore. It would, of course, be my decision but she knew “I'd make the right one.” Not Casady! The very thought of it struck fear in my young and unenlightened heart. Smart, rich kids went to Casady and I was neither. But mom had a way… of getting her way when it came to these kinds of decisions-meaning I kind of had no choice.

I got into Casady by the skin of my teeth. My first year can best be described as nine months of terror, offset by the tiniest glow of confidence and pride only by the last hour of the last day of the last class.

My weekly ritual that first year was laying on my living room couch in my blazer and tie early in the morning before chapel, crushed with gnawing anxiety and doubt-sometimes literally shaking; pleading with my mother to call John Marshall high school and get me in-and-out of Casady. “Just try to make it through the week. If you feel the same way on Friday, then I'll call John Marshall.” She would say. Luckily that day never came.

As I learned how to study my days at Casady became a bit brighter from my junior year; so by the time I graduated, I carried the pride of accomplishment that I had made it through Casady. Every difficult step was a piece of the mosaic that would give me the pattern of self-discipline, achievement and critical thinking that became the rock-solid foundation for almost every area of my life.
I carried the skills and love of learning from Casady into my undergraduate and graduate studies. I remember calling my father when I told him I was a Phi Beta Kappa. I heard him quietly weeping with joy over the phone- a certain gift from what I learned at Casady.

I don’t think it is any kind of hyperbole to say that whatever I have been able to accomplish academically, professionally; sometimes spiritually came from the foundation I received at this school. Casady gave me the vision to develop the essence of my own truth to make a difference for my family, the organizations I led, my country and our world. I felt that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish because I had the tools from Casady. I feel the same way today.

Accomplishment certainly has its rewards. I have found that those rewards came as a by-product of one simple word: contribution-to your families, your communities, your school and to yourselves. Don’t ask yourself what you can receive from Casady. Find out what you can give to it and to all those around you. It is not necessary to be a great executive, or government official or statesmen, or scholar. Just be the best ‘you’ possible right now.  Don’t wait. Your future will find you. Each of you is a leader of one and sometimes a leader of many. But always think of yourself as a leader. Because you are. People are watching you, especially if you are fortunate enough to have Casady attached to your name. Just remember who you are and what you represent. Remember that the development and maintenance of your character will always be more important than anything you can achieve. There is no place for egotism in the character equation. There is no right way to do the wrong thing.

Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal that we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become all of it we can be. Explore your own passion and follow it as far as it will take you, even to the dark places where that talent may lead. I have found so much truth in Eleanor Roosevelt’s prescient statement:”You must do what you fear. You must do the things you think you cannot do.” I have found for me that it was at that times-and there were a few, and continue to be that I was most fearful that I grew the most, sometimes kicking and screaming. I wish I could tell you that there is an easier way. But I have found that you just don’t get big rewards for small efforts. Find your own truth now and live it bravely. Playing it safe is rarely really safe. I have tried that approach too. In fact, I have invented new and ingenious ways to fail. But with faith in a higher power and the foundation I received at Casady, my failures took me places I never imagined, but I didn’t know it at the time.

A young man who I first met at Casady faced these same kinds of challenges. When I came to Casady I was a real outsider. So I had loneliness to add to my fear of making it through academically. That boy accepted me immediately and became my friend. And we are still best friends today. His name is Chris Carey. Doctor Chris Carey. He was the captain of the cross country team. He ran so fast he looked like a stallion. Thanks to Chris I lettered, even as slow as I was. “Ben, I am going to win this race for the team. All you have to do is run as fast as you can. You will have no competition.” And he was right. I followed that advice my whole life, creating my own professional positions, armed with my Casady foundation.

Chris wanted to become a doctor. But it was very difficult for him. He struggled and kept at it and kept at it when any normal person would have given up. It took him a few years but in the end, he achieved his goal and became one of the most respected surgeons in this city. When I see Chris I remember had it not been for Casady we would have never met. And I’m sure he would agree that much of what he gained here set him on that path.

Another dear friend who I met at Casady is Mark Robertson, a hard-working, accomplished attorney here in Oklahoma City. He has always been fascinated with Disney. In 2006 he called me: “Benny, I happen to know that the governor of Oklahoma has a few million dollars to commemorate the Centennial of Oklahoma statehood in 2007. Think that might be an opportunity for Disney?” I did and, for the first time in the history of the Walt Disney Company, we featured a US state, at Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort, celebrating six weeks of Oklahoma culture viewed by over 12 million people.. I won the Oklahoma Creativity Award. That award belongs to Mark, not me. 

One of the most difficult challenges for me is to somehow convey to your bright, shining faces: the students now at Casady, the gift you have in your hands. Celebrate this gift, understand this gift. Most important, earn this opportunity you’ve been given. A Casady education will take you places you’ve never been before. And someday when you are my age you will look back, thanking your parents and their good judgment that they gave you one of the most important gifts of your life. Use your own good judgment; grasp it with all of your mind and your heart- right here, right now.

From my heart to yours,

Ben May
Class of ‘68