Making Choices: The Pen or the Coin?

Global Quality Expert and Inspirational Speaker Subir Chowdhury delivering the 2019 Commencement Address at Central Michigan University.

Subir Chowdhury is a bestselling author and business management consultant. Subir is chairman and CEO of ASI Consulting Group, LLC, a global leader on strategic initiatives, quality consulting, and training. Under Subir’s leadership, ASI Consulting Group has helped hundreds of clients around the world save billions of dollars and increase revenues. Subir has worked with many organizations, large and small, across diverse industries including manufacturing, healthcare, food, government, and nonprofit organizations.

His client list includes global Fortune 100 corporations and industrial leaders such as American Axle, Berger Health Systems, Bosch, Caterpillar, Daewoo, Delphi, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai Motor Company, ITT Industries, Johns Manville, Kaplan Professional, Kia Motors, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Loral Space Systems, Make It Right Foundation, Mark IV Automotive, Procter & Gamble, the State of Michigan, Thomson Multimedia, TRW, Xerox, and more.
Subir’s personal website:
ASI Group

Be a zero, Reach for the sky, Choose the pen over the coin.
by Subir Chowdhury
Central Michigan University commencement Address
May 4, 2019

Good Morning!!! I Love Central’s Energy!!

The first night I spent in America I spent in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

I’d flown from my home in Bangladesh to Thailand, then to Taiwan, then to Seattle, to Detroit, and to Lansing, just to save some money for the airfare. Then I caught a ride to Mount Pleasant and my new university.

It was August 1991 and I barely had even a penny in my pocket.

I came here for a master’s degree. The department where I wanted to study said there was a fellowship waiting, and had told me to arrive two weeks early.

I arrived three weeks early to impress my professor.

I threw my bags in my room and went to see the professor.

This professor looked at me and said, “You supposed to come next week.” I said, Yes sir, I came one week early to impress you. He looked at me and said, “Subir, unfortunately I selected someone else for the fellowship.”

I looked at him and said, “Sir, you cannot do that.”

I cried. I shouted. I cried more. Still, there was no scholarship.

The next day, other international students tried to help. They understood my situation. They suggested I get a off-campus job. But I did not have a work visa, and to get a off-campus job would be illegal. I was in America for education. But I didn’t have any money to register for classes.

So what I did, I began knocking on doors. I went to every single academic department to earn a scholarship. I went to sociology. I went to journalism. I even went to English Department, telling them I’m so good in English.

After many departments when I am almost at the end of the rope, I knocked the door of Mathematics. The chair Dr. Richard Fleming listened to my story. He said, “You went to 20 departments, and now it is the 21st one; if I say no to you what you would do.” I said I will go to the 22nd. Then he looked at me and he said “Can you do research on polymer science?”

I told the professor, “Sir, I can do any topic. I graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur with a degree in aerospace engineering. So any topic I can master.”

And he gave me a chance, and I was selected for the Dow Fellowship. I will always be grateful to Dr. Leela Rakesh, who is present here today, for making this possible. The fellowship paid for my entire education, and in 1993 I graduated with a master’s degree. And I earned the best thesis award from the Graduate School.

The faculty wanted me to stay and work for a Ph.D. But I wanted to go out and I wanted to be the No. 1 guy in my field. I wanted to be the world’s top management expert on quality.

My professor was very disappointed. I said, “Professor, don’t worry about me. Maybe the day will come when I won’t have to earn a Ph.D., and instead Central will give me an honorary doctorate.”

And here I am!

Subir’s personal website:
ASI Group

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