Reese tells graduates to use 'last 5 percent' to make a difference

Submitted Report


MARTIN, Tenn. – Jerry Reese challenged University of Tennessee at Martin graduates to use the “last 5 percent” that is unique to them to make the world a better place and to “always say ‘thank you,’” as he signed those words for the audience.

Reese, New York Giants senior vice president and general manager since 2007, gave the commencement address, May 14, at his alma mater, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, played football and coached, before joining the Giants as a scout in 1994.

Drawing on a book he is currently reading, “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro, Reese said that 95 percent of people with some measure of training can already do what today’s graduates have decided to do with their lives.

He added jokingly, “If you are the general manager of a NFL football team, 99.9 percent of people can do what you do. I get emails, letters, phone calls from people telling me how they can do my job better than me.”

But, he noted, “It’s the 5 percent that you do, that you bring to the table – that unique 5 percent – that’s what we’re asking from you. That’s your contribution.

“I believe there is someone sitting here today with the last 5 percent that can find a cure for cancer,” he said. Likewise, he added, there are those among today’s graduates, who have trained at UT Martin with some of the finest faculty, who can find a cure for other illnesses and injuries, become master teachers, amazing farmers, preachers and president of the United States. He added, “I believe there are people sitting here today with the last 5 percent could be a general manager of an NFL football team. It can happen. I sat right where you are sitting right now years and years ago. I am the living proof.”

“The last 5 percent. That’s where you can make the difference.” Reese asked the graduates to turn to their fellow classmates on each side and make a pact. “Say ‘give me 5.’ That means I’m going to hold you responsible to make a difference, not blend in and make this world a better place.”

And, just as he might tell a football player on Sunday, he concluded, “Go out there and get them with your last 5 percent.”

UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes presided over the ceremony and conferred degrees. Dr. David Millhorn, UT executive vice president, represented Dr. Joe DiPietro, UT president, and congratulated graduates.

The class of 2011 represents 53 Tennessee counties, as well as 20 states – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming – and seven nations, in addition to the United States – Canada, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. They join approximately 38,000 UT Martin graduates throughout the world.

“Education is not only what is received, but rather what is achieved,” said Rakes, closing the ceremony. “As graduates of UT Martin, your diploma is a symbol of a significant achievement – your resume now contains another tool, representing a body of knowledge and problem-solving skill-set that, if used wisely, can help ensure a wonderful future for you and those around you.”