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Global financial leader and alumnus gives commencement address

A native of Brooklyn, Frank Bisignano, ’79, has never forgotten about Baker University or Baldwin City during his more than 40-year career in New York as an executive leader in banking and global financial technology.

Bisignano, president and CEO of Fortune 500 fintech Fiserv, returned to his alma mater to deliver the commencement address to College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, and School of Nursing undergraduates on May 19 at Liston Stadium. While emphasizing to the graduates that their journey had just begun, Bisignano underscored how his journey to Wall Street began when he arrived on the Baldwin City campus in 1977.

Learning About the World from Middle America

“It was a defining moment in my life,” Bisignano said of his years as a business administration student at Baker. “I am a son of an orphan, grew up in a multigenerational immigrant household on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. Baldwin City showed me the world. It wasn’t the Northeast; it was the middle of America. A New Yorker learned new skills that rounded me and prepared me for every aspect of life. I grew up in a family that loved God, country, and family. My immigrant household had one objective: for the next generation to do better.”

His commencement speech acknowledged the pivotal moment of commencement in the lives of Baker University graduates as a point from which to blaze their own trails.

“People pay attention to where you finish,” said Bisignano. “You are finishing this chapter, yet the journey has only begun. You have the opportunity to blaze your own trail. Since 1858, Baker has attracted the best. I think the values of Baker equal the values all of you possess and the world wants—integrity, respect, spirituality, community service, and excellence. You all walk together, and it’s a journey and this is part of the journey.”

Preparing to Lead

Dr. Murray and Frank Bisignano wearing regalia and walking across the football field after commencement

Bisignano reflected on the Baker alumni who developed their leadership skills in Baldwin City.

This place has been super special,” Bisignano said of Baker, which has graduated Pulitzer Prize winners, Rhodes Scholars, and a Super Bowl champion. “There have been so many people before us whose shoulders we stand on. This university is nationally acclaimed for what it does in academic leadership, what it does in athletic leadership, and for producing political leaders, business leaders, and fine arts and sciences leaders. I know within this crowd here there is greatness.”

Bisignano noted that the events of today—activism, war, protest, and constant change—are similar to when he was a student in the late 1970s and that Baker faced similar challenges when it was founded in the late 1850s.

“Baker was founded by Methodist ministers,” he said. “They were trying to find refuge from social and economic unrest. The world has not changed, maybe how it’s communicated has changed, and maybe the speed at which it is communicated has changed. I feel we owe everything we have to those Methodist ministers who found a road to be able keep their solace and move forward.”

Making Hard Look Easy

During his address, Bisignano also shared an inspirational quote attributed to Kara Lawson, head coach of Duke University women’s basketball team.

“You have to learn to do hard better,” he said. “Nothing gets easier. It’s going to get harder. If you are good at hard, they give you more hard. While you are doing hard better, make hard look easy. Make complicated simple. Use critical thinking. Your Baker education prepared you for critical thinking. Too often the answer is obvious. Attitude matters. Everyone treats everyone with equal respect. It’s part of the Baker system and part of the whole future.”

Dr. Murray talking into a microphone with Frank Bisignano on stage at the Women's conference

After Bisignano’s address, Baker President Lynne Murray presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Earlier this spring, Murray was a featured speaker at the Fiserv Leading Women CEO Summit in New York City. The event was designed for female leaders to share insights on current topics.

“I know I speak for the entire Baker community when I say it was our honor to host Frank on campus to bestow the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award,” Dr. Murray said. “His commencement remarks reflecting on his life’s journey following his time as a student at Baker to his life and career successes were inspiring to all of us.”

Advancing New Capabilities

During his financial career, Bisignano has combined his expertise in banking and payments with a deep belief in the transformative power of financial technology. Before his tenure at Fiserv, he was CEO of First Data and served as co-chief operating officer and chief executive officer of mortgage banking at JPMorgan Chase.

Among his nonprofit commitments, Bisignano serves on the boards of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Mount Sinai Health System, and The Battery Conservancy. Bisignano is a professional and personal advocate for creating positive change in communities and has spearheaded multiple causes, including the Fiserv Back2Business program, a $50 million commitment to support minority-owned small businesses.

Bisignano knows the Class of 2024 is on the path for success because of the well-rounded education they received at Baker.

“This education has served you well,” he said. “If you look at the legacy of those before you, you can do anything you want. This was a four-year sprint. The next one is a marathon. You are going to have ups and downs; you’re going to have good and bad. Everything is about learning and growing.”

Written by Steve Rottinghaus, ’14 MSM

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