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Contribute, Lead and Find Your Way, Charlie Denson Tells USU's 2013 Grads

Saturday, May. 04, 2013

Charlie Denson and Doug Fiefia

Charlie Denson shakes hand with 2013-14 ASUSU President Doug Fiefia.

Charlie Denson

Nike Brand President and USU Alum Charlie Denson addresses the USU graduating class of 2013.

Utah State University Alum and Nike Brand President Charlie Denson told USU graduates that they will have more responsibility and opportunity than any other generation in history. He said it is a daunting task, but that it is their turn to contribute, to lead and to find their way.

“I hope that you want to change the world,” Denson said. “Make it a better place.”

While speaking to Utah State University’s graduating class of 2013, Denson told the students to include options after graduation, to stay open to new ideas and opportunities and to make the best of it. He encouraged the students to be lifelong learners and to follow their passions to achieve personal success and fulfillment.

“You’re smart, smarter than any generation before you,” Denson said. “But you’re not wise. Wisdom comes with time. Respect it.”

Denson reflected that moving abroad and adapting to a foreign culture for his career was one of the greatest learning opportunities of his life. He said that he finally learned there was more than one way to solve a problem, more than one way to create an opportunity and more than one way to communicate a message.

“I hope you take the time to figure out your passion and that you follow it,” Denson said. “Build your life and career around it. If you are lucky, they will become the same.”

Denson spoke in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum during USU’s 126th Commencement Ceremony. He presented the commencement address and received an honorary doctorate during the program. Three other prominent individuals also received honorary doctorates: Samuel Alba, retired United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Utah; Orrin Hatch, Utah senator and the most senior Republican in the United States Senate; and Mathana Santiwat, president of Bangkok University in Thailand.

USU graduates for the class of 2013 included 3,633 bachelor’s, 821 master’s, 93 doctorate’s and five educational specialists.

As president of the Nike Brand Denson is responsible for leading the strategy of the world’s most distinctive, authentic and connected brand in sports.

Denson oversees all aspects of the global direction for the company’s consumer categories, including actions sports, basketball, football (soccer), men’s training, running, sportswear and women’s training, as well as the Jordan Brand and Nike Golf.

His career at Nike spans more than 30 years. After graduating from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1978 Denson started as an assistant store manager of “The Athletics Department,” Nike’s first retail store in Portland, Ore., in 1979. He quickly moved up the ranks and has held many positions over the years, including time as vice president of United States and European sales and as general manager of Nike USA.

An innovator in developing sales and distribution strategies, Denson has been a driving force in Nike’s global growth as the company has expanded into approximately 190 countries. In particular, he pioneered Nike’s growth in China, India and Brazil,. In fiscal year 2012, Nike Brand revenues surpassed $21 billion, a growth of 16 percent.

An avid Aggie fan, Denson was instrumental in unveiling Utah State’s new athletic logo in the spring of 2012. The university worked with Nike in collaboration on a 15-month re-branding campaign that was made possible through Denson’s support as well as the longstanding association between Utah State Athletics and Nike.

USU President Stan L. Albrecht addressed the graduating glass and told them how important receiving an education is and how much it will impact their lives.

“For me, as it will be for you, the effect of education is irreversible,” he said.

Visit the USU Commencement website ( for more detailed information.

Contact and Writer: Maren Cartwright, 435-797-1355,

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