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Titan Leaders to Students: Find the ‘Sweet Spot’ in Life and Leadership

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Alumnus Patrick Donahue asked Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee during a leadership program for students, if, when he was in college, he imagined that he’d become the leader of a university.

“Not in a million years,” Virjee remarked. “I had no sense or idea where my life would lead me.” But he added, “You need to be prepared for your potential future.”

Donahue ’78 (B.A. business administration-marketing), chairman and chief executive officer of Costa Mesa-based Donahue Schriber Realty Group, and Virjee shared insights about their personal and professional journeys into leadership roles during the Oct. 24 Titan Future Leaders Series.

Donahue, who served as interviewer, asked the president a range of questions. Virjee talked about his childhood (his father was a ship captain and his family sailed around the world), his experiences as a first-generation college student, his 30-year career as an attorney at one of the most prestigious law firms in Los Angeles — and how he landed the top job at CSUF.

Donahue told students that when he graduated from college, he had no idea what he wanted to do, let alone imagine that one day he’d oversee a major retail development company that owns 65 neighborhood shopping centers from San Diego to Seattle.

He relayed how he did odd jobs, such as landscaping and painting houses, after he graduated. Eventually, he went to work at the company his older brother co-founded. But when his brother suddenly died, he was thrust into the role of company president.

Donahue expressed that all the training he had, working in every aspect of the company, prepared him for the leadership role: “Everything I had done up to that point, while I didn’t know it at the time, trained me for that moment.” He continued to tell students, “Everything you’re going to do, starting today, will lead you on your path to success.”

Virjee and Donahue also gave students some pointers on how they, too, can develop leadership skills, be successful in college, and find passion and purpose in their future careers:

  • Take a class out of your comfort zone, and get involved in the college experience.
  • Go to work for people with the same goals and values as you.
  • Stop and take stock of what you’re doing. Find balance between work and personal lives.
  • Make a difference in the work you do on the job — and in your community.
  • Learn from mentors, and take in the good, and the bad, to shape yourself into the leader you want to become.
  • Don’t let the pendulum swing too far, either way. Laugh and enjoy life. Have fun and find joy. Life will be so much sweeter. Find the sweet spot.

The Center for Scholars and Student Life and Leadership is hosting the Titan Future Leaders Series, with presenting sponsor Bank of America and featuring influential Orange County leaders. The next program in the series is  11 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 6 in Titan Theatre, featuring alumnus Mike Groff ’78 (B.A. business administration-management), chief executive officer of Toyota Financial Services.