In order to motivate students and give them some useful steps to discover their “God-given talents,” businessman and founder of D.L. Tocco & Associates, Inc., Donald “Don” Tocco spoke at Hillsdale College on Thursday, April 11.
“Many persons do not discover what those talents are until later in life by virtue of some accident or external happenstance,” Tocco said. “Our ultimate purpose and our God-given talents are inextricably linked together and the sooner we know what they are, the sooner we can accelerate our productivity in life and service to others.”
Tocco is greatly recognized across campus as a generous donor for campus activities and groups. Visiting sororities, playing baseball with the college’s team, and speaking with other students involved across a spectrum of interests, Tocco believes extracurricular activities contribute to the college’s liberal arts tradition.
“The purpose of my donating money to Hillsdale College is to support not only the great mission of the school but also the specific activities of your leadership groups, including funding for sports programs at different times over these many years,” Tocco said. “You may find after graduation that your involvement in extracurricular activities beyond academics was every bit as valuable as your core curriculum, philosophy, and great books read and studied. These are the reasons I offer monetary support.”
Tocco has previously donated funds depending on the number of members of campus clubs who attend his annual lecture, but this year, he tried a different means to understand campus groups’ core values and objectives. He asked each campus group in attendance to write a letter of intent explaining what their group stands for, what it accomplishes, and for what purposes they would use additional funding.
“I added this requirement so I could better understand what the many different groups on campus are trying to accomplish while en route to their undergraduate degree,” Tocco said in an email.
Senior Kyle Huitt, who introduced Tocco at the lecture, has experienced the generosity of Tocco and developed a personal as well as working relationship with the businessman by managing Tocco’s personal website.
“I think people often miss how he takes ideas originally articulated by some of the greatest thinkers we study at Hillsdale — the notion of a best self, the idea of virtues, a focus on a contemplative life, etc. — and communicates them in a radically accessible way for people who might not quite be used to reading Aristotle and ethical philosophy for themselves,” Huitt said. “As a philosophy nerd, I’ve respected that and benefited from it. Mr. Tocco shows that the higher things can be made very practical and are necessary for a good life.”
Tocco believes these ideas to be important in communicating to his younger audience. These include memorable phrases that students repeated with Tocco to reinforce his message, including “burning desire,” “D‑etermination,” and “action, action, action!”
Tocco’s speeches always address three specific ideas he believes are fundamental “principles necessary for a productive and extraordinary life.” These ideas include the Greek word “arête,” referring to excellence in character, being involved in government as young politically-mindful individuals, and finding mentors who will cultivate good qualities in themselves.
Students appreciate Tocco’s annual speeches and his generous contribution to the well-being of the student body and activities across campus, while being so passionate about the college and its mission.
“We always hear from professors and faculty that our Hillsdale education will serve us well in the ‘real world,’ but it is always very special to have someone outside of Hillsdale recognize the work that we do here and explain how we will be able to apply our Hillsdale education to our futures,” sophomore Kate Ford said. “Mr. Tocco is a generous, personable man. His earnestness and resilience are inspiring qualities, and I truly enjoy talking to him when he comes to campus.”
Tocco said he cares about the student body and is hoping to frequent campus more often as he becomes involved in a new business development in Litchfield County, near the college’s campus.
As students discover and master what he calls, “the art of arête” and continue to pursue both learning and scholarship at Hillsdale, Tocco hopes students hold on to the truths he shares during his visits.
“As a Hillsdale College student, if you can manage to leave that great institution having accomplished academic excellence, build upon the force of your character; know your purpose,” Tocco said, “Express your burning desire; write down your goals and objectives; demonstrate persistence, determination, and conviction; and act in a bold and confident manner — there is nothing you cannot achieve.”