Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Grads: Make his advice yours

POTATO CHIP scion Ed Herr, who will address Immaculata University graduates at their commencement this weekend, is not the biggest celebrity "get" as a 2014 graduation speaker. Locally, Penn bagged an A-list pop star - Grammy winner John Legend - and Villanova pulled in the vice president's wife, Jill Biden.

But Herr, the president of Nottingham-based Herr Foods Inc., may prove to be a wise choice. In a season when student protests have led Condoleezza Rice and other scheduled speakers to cancel (including a scholar who was Haverford College's original choice), the hardworking, charity-minded front man for a well-liked snack food brand isn't likely to ruffle any feathers.

Daily News writer Becky Batcha spoke with Herr on Wednesday about the thoughts he'll share with his listeners Sunday afternoon:

Q Without giving away your best lines, what advice will you offer Immaculata's grads this weekend?

I have a couple notes done up here, obviously, and the first thing I'm going to tell them is how proud of them I am for accomplishing this milestone in their life. That's the purpose of the day, to recognize someone who worked hard and accomplished their goal.

I also tell them right up front: "If you don't hear anything else today, my message is, 'Love people like crazy. Love people like crazy.' "

Q Why is that important?

When I think of a whole group of people graduating, with different degrees, they could all go in different directions. But anyone who's aspiring to be successful - to be happy, to be a leader - is going to do that through their interactions with people.

You can do well if you have this tendency to love people.

When I pick up the phone to talk to you, I think to myself, "I like this person." And right away I compliment you or thank you or something. If, on the other hand, I think, "I don't like reporters," I don't think things go as well.

People are always better off if they start with the foundation that other people are good people and train themselves to see the good.

Q Is there advice you considered sharing, but decided against?

No. I've kind of been on this track, here.

Q What is the smartest thing you did, personally, as a young man starting out?

Probably one of the smartest things I did was to work hard.

Some people look at that as a chore - like, "I can't wait to finish work." But I've always valued the privilege of working hard and what hard works brings. It brings you a good night's rest. It brings you reward for your labors.

Growing up, we had a rule that you work half a day Saturday and you could play half a day. We had work to do in the yard: pick up sticks or sweep the driveway, take the trash out. I liked playing, but I always looked forward to that first part. I always enjoyed working hard.

Q Do you worry that some fringe Pringles faction might disrupt your graduation speech?

I hope not. I think I have more friends than foes, and I'm not very big on the political circuit, so I think we might be OK.

Q Before we go, is there anything I've forgotten to ask?

You know what people ask most commonly, but I don't think it applies: Where do you get all these potatoes?

The answer is, potatoes are a 90-day crop, and they start planting them in January in Florida. We run potatoes fresh out of the field, and we follow that crop right up the East Coast: to North Carolina, Virginia, then New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When we get to New York and Michigan, the soil is so rich and they grow so hardily that they stay fresh. They'll stay fresh all winter until they get back to Florida again. So we're always using fresh potatoes.

Q Is there a lesson in that, for graduates?

I don't think so, particularly. It's just interesting trivia.

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