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2017 B&E Commencement

2017 B&E Commencement

B&E’s commencement ceremony was held on May 13 at the  West Virginia University Coliseum, where 512 students walked the stage to be handed their diplomas.  

Graduates Gabrielle Schwind, Shannon Roth, and Zachary Hillis talk about what graduation means to them. 

WVU Professors and Univisersity President at commencement ceremony

Mylan Pharmaceuticals co-founder Don Panoz was presented with an honorary doctorate degree from the College of Business and Economics at commencement exercises on May 13. Pictured, from left, are WVU President Gordon Gee, Panoz, B&E Milan Puskar Dean Javier Reyes and Dr. Lena Maynor, WVU Faculty Senate Chair.

Mylan co-founder Panoz receives B&E honorary degree, addresses graduates

Donald E. Panoz has started astoundingly successful companies all over the world, but his success started in West Virginia in 1961 when he and U.S. Army buddy Milan “Mike” Puskar co-founded what would become globally recognized Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

So when the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics presented Panoz with an honorary doctorate degree in business administration — at Commencement Exercises on May 13 — with 512 graduates — and Panoz spoke to the graduates — well, that makes for a pretty special day.

WVU President Gordon Gee presented the degree to Panoz, emphasizing that the entrepreneur was, indeed, someone special.

“For today’s graduates, he exemplifies the way innovation and dedication combine to create success,” said Gee. “Donald Panoz, on this day, May 13, 2017, in recognition of your distinguished career, and by the virtue of the authority vested in me by the West Virginia University Board of Governors, I hereby confer upon you the Honorary Degree Doctor of Business.”

“I am humbled to receive the honorary degree from the College of Business and Economics,” Panoz told the crowd at the WVU Coliseum. “Mylan was formed in late 1960 in White Sulphur Springs in a condemned roller skating rink. Two ex-Army buddies had a dream.”

Some of the investors in the company were players on the 1960 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, helping to start what Panoz referred to as a “journey of dreams.”

“Our most creative idea was to locate the business in West Virginia, a small, parochial mining state were no other pharmaceutical firms existed. ‘We can become big players in a small state,’ I told Mike. Sometimes businesses succeed because of great ideas; sometimes you need a little serendipity. Others are built on connections. We had all three.”

Panoz created Élan Corp. in Ireland in the 1970s, which became a leader in drug delivery products and technology. He led a research team that created time-release medication through a transdermal patch, commonly used today as the nicotine patch. Élan Corp. was the first Irish company to be publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and today Panoz retains more than 300 pharmaceutical industry patents.

His successes are diverse, ranging from his global reputation as a hybrid racing pioneer to his founding of SICOR, Inc., a California-based pharmaceutical company. He is managing partner of DeltaWing Project 56 LLC and chairman of DeltaWing Technologies, Inc., a Georgia-based automotive technologies company committed to helping automotive manufacturers deliver fuel efficient and emissions-reducing technologies that benefit everyday drivers and commuters. He has founded internationally-renowned resorts, including Chateau Élan in Georgia, The Vintage Golf Club in Australia, Diablo Grande Winery & Resort in California, and St. Andrews Bay Resort and Spa in Scotland.

In 2013, Panoz became just the 29th inductee into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, joining entrepreneurs such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Bill Gates, Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies and Warren Buffet. In 2015, he was inducted into theWest Virginia Business Hall of Fame.

In short, Panoz is an inspirational role model for someone like a new college graduate.

“Today is graduation day for you. You will now have a chance to step outside of the box, look at new horizons, new opportunity and responsibility. To those of you who have the entrepreneurial spirit, you must take time to dream and then take time to make your dreams come true,” he told those about to receive their degrees. “But when you dream you will have the occasional nightmare. Be persistent, find a way to overcome the obstacles, and get on with it.”

Of Mylan Pharmaceuticals and his business partner Mike Puskar, Panoz told the graduates, “Along with our official name, we had an official company motto: ‘We either do it right or we don’t do it at all.’ And we stayed true to our word.”

And that’s pretty good advice for 512 new graduates ready to go out and conquer the business world.

Chambers College