Kenneth Langone, a financial backer and co-founder of Home Depot, told Palm Beach Atlantic University students this week that he is anything but a self-made man.
The son of a plumber and a cafeteria worker, Langone said that during his first semester at Bucknell University, a professor noticed that he had a firm grasp of economics despite his poor grades. The professor advocated for him, and as a result he was able to stay in school, he said.
“That was the beginning of my not being a self-made man,” Langone said. “Nobody makes it on their own.”
Speaking to a small group of honors students during the second President’s Lyceum of the semester, Langone said he is grateful for his parents, his wife, his in-laws and others throughout his life who have been cheering for him on the sidelines.
“I urge you, it’s a long race and you’ve only just begun,” he told the students. “And until you decide to give it up, never rest on your laurels.”
Langone, who served on Home Depot’s board of directors from 1978-2008 and was a co-founder of the company, is a former director of the New York Stock Exchange and an active philanthropist. In 1968, RW Pressprich, the firm Langone was president of, was the banker for the initial public offering of Electronic Data Systems, the company run by Ross Perot. In 1974 he founded Invemed Associates Inc., an investment bank and brokerage firm focusing on medical technology and retail businesses.
Today, “we are seeing in our firm more investment opportunities for young budding companies than we’ve seen in the 40 years that we’ve had the firm,” he said. “Don’t give up on the notion that this is the greatest nation on earth with the greatest opportunity.”
Along the way, he said, it’s important for young businesspeople to establish a good reputation and then protect it. He said there is one achievement of which he is most proud. “I can’t think of a person I’ve ever done business with that wouldn’t do business with me again,” he said.
His beliefs, he said, are rooted in the Bible. Also, before making decisions he often asks himself what would his parents think of what he’s doing, he said.
“Winning is not everything,” he said. “Winning the right way is everything.”
Langone also reminded students about the importance of giving back. He noted that one of the many charities he supports is Ronald McDonald House, a place that he visits when his spirits need a lift.
“You do win by doing good,” he said.
The President’s Lyceum is a speaker’s series in which visitors who have distinguished themselves in various professions come to present their insights and experiences in a discussion with PBA students. Last week, students heard from former presidential adviser David Gergen.
Previous speakers included Cleveland Clinic Florida CEO Dr. Bernie Fernandez, former high-level Defense Department staffer Philip Odeen, former human resources executive Bill Conaty and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux.