University of Southern California

November 6, 2009 • by Gordon Marshall

Dear Friends of Marshall:

Yes, it's really me, Gordon Marshall.  Can I share a secret with you?  I don't even know how to turn on a computer.  My wife does all that.  But when they asked me to write an e-mail to the Marshall family, I was thrilled.  It's an opportunity for me to share some thoughts with a community I care deeply about.

I know the students at the Marshall School of Business are great -- my granddaughter just graduated from there this spring.  To those recent graduates, can I offer a suggestion?  Try to be the best at whatever you're doing.  Just being average doesn't do anything for you.  When I got back from flying 27 missions in a B-24 during World War II,  I took an aptitude test to be an airline pilot.  The test told them that my personality was best suited to be in sales and leadership.  So I decided if I was going to be a successful salesman, I'd better be the best.  Not just good -- the best. 

It took me four years.  I started my own business as a manufacturer's representative.  I wrote to 100 cities, asking companies if I could sell their products.  I sold everything.  I sold poker chips to drug stores in Pasadena.  I sold TV antennaes.  I sold a whole bunch of crummy stuff up and down the Pacific coast.  And the whole time, I worked night and day training myself to be the best salesman out there.  I read every book, talked to everyone I could, asked every question.  The first year I made $5,000.  The second year I made $7,000.  The third year I made $35,000.  And the fourth year I made $135,000.  I made every mistake a person could make, but I was lucky enough to be born with a positive attitude.  And I constantly tried to be the best.

That's what the USC Marshall School of Business does:  It trains its graduates to be the best.  Marshall knows it's a competitive world out there, and to succeed, you've got to be at the top of the pile.  I'm proud of the work that Marshall and Dean Ellis are doing, and want to see it continue to grow.  I'm going to be 90 in November, and I'll continue to do my part to support the school.  Will you join me in helping this great institution?  Can we make a commitment together to keep Marshall the best?  That would be the best birthday present you could give me.

Fight On!
Gordon Marshall