Jason Jennings, bestselling author and internationally recognized authority on leadership, growth and innovation, will be the keynote speaker at Northern Michigan University’s commencement on Saturday, May 6. The Negaunee native will also receive an honorary Doctor of Business degree. Jennings attended NMU for one year in 1970 before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science.
His website biography states that Jennings’ “greatest thrill is helping lead individuals and companies to their full economic potential.” He began his career as a radio and television reporter and became the youngest radio station group owner in the nation. He later founded the media consulting firm Jennings-McGlothlin & Company, where his programming and sales strategies are credited with revolutionizing parts of the broadcasting industry.
Jennings traveled the globe in search of companies that use speed as a competitive tool to write It's Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow. The book hit the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists and has been published in 32 languages. His other books include Less is More, on the world’s 10 most productive companies; Think BIG, Act Small; Hit the Ground Running; The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change; and, most recently, The High-Speed Company.
“The two most impactful and influential books I have ever read occurred as a result of being in a humanities class at NMU taught by Frumeth Siegel,” Jennings said. “Those books—Death at An Early Age: The Indictment of Inner-City Education by Jonathan Kozol and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley—helped form me and my abhorrence of social injustice in any form, in any place or at any time. Speaking and acting out against social injustice is my most important life’s work.”
USA Today has ranked Jennings “one of the three most in-demand business speakers on the planet,” delivering about 80 keynote speeches each year. When he is not traveling for speaking engagements, research or adventure, he and his family split their time between the San Francisco bayside community of Tiburon and their lodge, Timber Rock Shore, on a small U.P. lake.
Jennings enjoys studying and speaking languages. He said he was the first foreign exchange student from Negaunee High School, spending a term in France. He also is conversant in German and has studied Spanish. Eleven years ago, Jennings fulfilled his longtime goal of learning to play viola.
“I have been known to spend a Saturday afternoon busking for dollars and coins at Fisherman’s Wharf with my teacher, long associated with the Young Musician’s Program of the San Francisco Symphony,” he said. “We give the proceeds to more talented and younger buskers. Our favorite genre is doing new arrangements of the most memorable hymns of all time, and the great love songs of the 1940s.”
NMU commencement is at 10:30 a.m. in the Superior Dome. It will be broadcast live on WNMU-TV. The America One/B2 Networks will stream the ceremony live via the Internet, in high definition, free of charge. Follow the link at www.nmu.edu/commencement.