Max J. Roberts, chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble College, recently served as the keynote speaker for Troy University’s Honors Convocation. The annual assembly recognizes students from each of the University’s five colleges for their achievements, including those inducted into various honors societies.
Speaking in the Claudia Crosby Theater on the Troy University campus in Troy, Alabama, Roberts credited his successes in life to choosing good mentors. “I truly applaud your success and hope my experiences will help you define success not by financial wealth, but by being a lifelong learner, by surrounding yourself with people who lift you up, who inspire you, and who take the time to share their knowledge to invest in your future,” he said. “In my career, that translated into a very simple tenet that truly was the catalyst for my accomplishments: find and pick good mentors.”
Roberts spoke of his own personal career path that began in accounting and evolved into retail, praising the mentors who helped shape his successful 40-year career along the way. Those mentors included faculty and professors, as well as tough bosses who expected excellence. “These mentors taught me an important lesson for my life’s journey. I apply these lessons daily — not just in my professional life, but my personal life as well,” he said. “My greatest blessings and my greatest honors can be attributed to those I surrounded myself with, those who taught me, challenged and supported me.”
Roberts, a Certified Public Accountant, joined Barnes & Noble College in 1996 after holding a number of senior-level executive positions at various retailers, including Petrie Retail, R.H. Macy & Co., and May Department Stores, as well as at the global public accounting firm of Touche Ross & Co. During his tenure at Barnes & Noble College, he has managed the company’s continued growth and expansion, nearly quadrupling the number of colleges and universities served by the company.
Roberts concluded his address by applauding the students’ success and offering one last lesson. “My advice is, do a good job of picking the people you surround yourself with, pick the best bosses, mentors and partners — and then, no doubt, you will not only graduate with honors today, but will graduate life with honors.”