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Robert Trigaux

UTampa's ties to the Blagojevich brothers



Robblagojevichutampa Wake up and good morning. Just a reminder that you don't get to pick your own family. Corruption charges swirl around Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. His arrest (and pending impeachment, says the Chicago Tribune) for an alleged attempt to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat has thrown the state's government up for grabs... and put a side spotlight on Rod's older brother and businessman -- Rob Blagojevich and the University of Tampa.

As reported in the Nashville City Paper, Rob Blagojevich is a former senior executive with First American Trust Co. who now manages real estate investments in four states from his Nashville office. He's a man of "sufficiently sterling reputation" to have been tapped as commencement speaker last May by his alma mater, the University of Tampa. "Big brother Rob has our empathy," says the paper. (Photo: UTampa president Ron Vaughn (right) presents commencement speaker Rob Blagojevich with a commemorative plaque, courtesy of University of Tampa.)

Rob graduated from the University of Tampa in 1977. Brother Rod also attended (but did not graduate from) the University of Tampa, as the soon-to-be-ex governor explained in a 2003 profile in Chicago Magazine:

"The University of Tampa was an odd college choice for a kid 'from the neighborhood,' as Blagojevich puts it, but his brother had gone there two years before to play baseball. With a lackluster grade point average and an 18 or 19 on his ACT, Blagojevich admits, 'schools like Northwestern, I couldn't get into.' After two years, Rod got into Northwestern as a transfer student and majored in history."

So what kind of message did UT alum Rob give in his commencement address last May in Tampa? Not once in his remarks did he even mention his brother. But there's more here than you might think, and perhaps some insights into a family whose future governor seems to have no problem in the pay-to-play game of Illinois politics.

First, he offered UT grads a hint of what to expect in a 2008 economy:

"No matter what field you’ve chosen, you know you’re entering the workforce at a time when the U.S. economy may be cycling through a recessionary phase. The job market may not be as robust as it was when you entered this university. Doom and gloom is the lead story of every news cycle these days, and it can get you down."

Second, he offered some guidance on potential fields more likely to be hiring:

"Opportunities actually are growing in the fields of healthcare services, environmental planning, emergency preparedness and international business development to name just a few."

Third, he encouraged his young audience to hold up their chins:

"Whether or not you have a job or have gotten the one you wanted, when you leave this place you may feel a little overwhelmed, and frankly, alone."

Fourth, he  told a tale of his own family, starting with his father who "was born a peasant in a village with no running water or electricity," enrolled in military school, was captured by the Nazis and thrown into a German prison camp in 1941, was liberated four years later by Allied Forces and eventually migrated to the United States. He found work in a Chicago area tannery.

The commencement speaker's advice to find a  job and succeed? Network, network, network:

"You live at a time when Internet-based networking is second nature. With instantaneous global connectivity, you use Facebook, My Space, text and instant messaging, keeping you connected with family and friends 24/7. At an early age you’ve become very comfortable reaching out and connecting with people through technology.

"Use your networking skills to your advantage and take them to another level and expand on them... Experience has shown me that in order to maximize these contacts it’s important to come prepared to be helped. So, be able to articulate what it is you’re looking for and how you think you can be helped.... Networking should be a two-way street, though. In order to build a network of centers of influence, you should be willing to help someone yourself... Have a good life and give me a call."

Not a bad speech overall, and he even gives UT grads his phone number in order to -- what else? -- network. Hopefully his audience will draw more lessons from speaker Rob's remarks than brother Gov. Rod's methods.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:23am]


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