Auburn alumnus, Children’s of Alabama CEO has great expectations for summer graduates

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Mike Warren Jr. used his role as Saturday's commencement speaker to let the latest class of Auburn University graduates know what he didn't nearly 50 years ago when he received a degree in history.

"Auburn University gives you an outstanding foundation that will allow you to do things in your life that you simply cannot dream of today," he proclaimed.

Warren, who was raised in Auburn, said he had no idea his Auburn education would lead him to law school and a big law firm. He had no idea it would help him become CEO of one of Alabama's largest utilities and energy companies, let alone CEO of Children's of Alabama, one of the nation's largest pediatric hospitals.

Warren also shared what an Auburn education did for his brother, Wick. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology and made a career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Wick worked with colleagues in more than 160 countries and visited almost 70 of those countries.

"Your Auburn education will open doors for you that you cannot imagine today," he said. "But when that door opens, it is up to you to walk through it."

Warren encouraged the graduates to accept their Auburn experience for what it was and move on.

"You can't stay here," he said. "You have to go out into the world. It is time to turn the next page in your life. Tomorrow is a new beginning for you."

Warren challenged the class to determine what they can do to make our world a better place.

While he claimed his generation has done some things "pretty well," – such as how much health care has improved but not enough – he said it is up to this generation to get things right. His graduation gift to them is what he called the burden of great expectations.

"We are counting on you. We have great expectations for you," Warren said. "As the late tennis star Arthur Ashe said, we need you to 'start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.' So hear me, I urge you; do not wait. It's too important to the communities, to our state and to our nation."

"You can make a difference in our world, but only if you try, only if you get involved in something that is truly meaningful to you and your community," he added.

Warren, a 1968 alumnus, received the Auburn Alumni Association's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award and is a 2015 inductee into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. He attended law school at Duke University and began his career practicing law in Birmingham. He became president of Alagasco in 1984 and was named president and CEO of Energen, Alagasco's parent company, in 1997 and chair in 1998. In 2008, he was named president and CEO of Children's of Alabama in Birmingham.

Auburn awarded 1,138 academic degrees in two ceremonies Saturday at Auburn Arena. More than 300,000 degrees have been awarded at Auburn since its founding in 1856.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.