Disney exec who is ISU grad shares tools for success

August 19 2008

Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis doesn't really carry life's most important tools in his briefcase.

What the 1984 Indiana State University College of Business graduate does carry in the worn tan leather case he received from his father when he was becoming a young professional are symbols of those tools.

During a new student convocation program Sunday at Indiana State, Lewis showed those symbols to an audience of 18-year-olds who may wonder what the future holds, and spoke briefly about why they are important.

The first "tool" he pulled from his briefcase was his Blackberry, representing the hundreds of people whose names and contact information the device contains.

"You can't do big things like graduate from college without relying on people," Lewis said. "Those who inspired you to get here are most likely not starting college with you. You will need new people in your life to help get you through."

A pair of work gloves represents the hard work that is necessary to achieve success -- even in the digital age.

"I encourage you to roll up your sleeves and do the so-called 'dirty work,' regardless of your role. Getting to ISU in my view, doesn't mean you know a lot. It means you're willing to learn a lot, to do your homework. Not all the best lessons come from reading or even listening. They come from doing," Lewis said.

A third tool for success can't be found in any briefcase - not even symbolically. That tool, according to Lewis, is courage.

"There are many ways to define courage. There's courage on the battlefield, on the playing field, in the conference room or in the face of life's greatest challenges. But the kind I'm talking about is the courage of perseverance," he said. "During your time at Indiana State, there may come a time when you find yourself falling behind - perhaps for the first time in your life. It's how you respond that will make the difference between success and failure."

A quick look at his resume suggests Lewis has known only success. Prior to taking his current position as president of the 100,000-member Disney Vacation Club in 1996, the Hammond native worked for PepsiCo for nine years. Before that, he was an accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Indianapolis.

But before that - and before Indiana State - Lewis toiled at a car wash on Sibley Boulevard in his native Hammond and other places where work gloves - or wash mitts, in the case of the car wash - really did come in handy, including a Pullman-Standard rail car plant.

Lewis' parents divorced when he was 10 and his mom had the task of raising three boys by herself.

"She never became discouraged. She got a job, learned how to drive for the first time, helped me with my homework, took classes at night to better herself," Lewis said.

Inspired by his mom's dedication, he said he made up his mind not to let her down and he urged incoming ISU students to also persevere.

The rail car plant where Lewis worked as a teen-ager closed shortly after he entered Indiana State and he noted that more of today's jobs require a college education, making it even more important for those young people entering ISU this fall to complete their college educations.

"Many of you have been raised by a single parent or your grandparents or have other people that made significant sacrifices for you to get here," he said. "If you do not finish what you are starting you are not only letting yourself down but you are letting mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, a big sister, a big brother, or even a little sister and brother who look up to you and expects you to set the right example and show them the way by inspiring them to do better with your accomplishments."

As for his own accomplishments as president of a world-wide vacation time share organization, Lewis said his position with Disney Vacation Club has exceeded all expectations he had when he graduated from Indiana State more than 24 years ago.

"When you get a chance to work at a place like Disney, you feel like you contribute to the greater good. I work for a company where people say the product I sell changes their lives. It brings their families together because they vacation together. They figure out ways to do it more affordably and that's pretty special." he said.

Photo
Tools for success Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis, a graduate of the Indiana State University College of Business, wears a pair of work gloves to illustrate the need for hard work during a new student convocation address at ISU. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Disney Vacation Club President Jim Lewis, a graduate of the ISU College of Business, gave an inspirational address during the university's annual new student Convocation. Lewis shared with students the tools he believes will help them succeed in college and beyond.

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