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April 18, 2013

Berkman engages Mixon in dialogue

By Christina Sanders

Chairman and founder of medical services company Invacare, A. Malachi Mixon, spoke at the Presidential Dialogue on Wednesday, April 10, in Cleveland State University’s Drinko Hall.

Mixon, a graduate of Harvard University, acquired Invacare — then a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson — with a group of investors in 1979.

President Ronald Berkman served as the mediator/host for the dialogue. Berkman and Mixon sat on the stage across from each other in two brown leather office chairs that were separated by a marble coffee table, while Berkman asked Mixon layer peeling questions.

The theme of the dialogue was Mixon’s journey to where he is today. Berkman began the conversation by reading highlights from Mixon’s resume, adding paint to the blank canvas, that was the man sitting on the stage. After introductions, the dialogue moved chronologically.

Mixon shared his unique story with the audience of about 75 students, Board of Trustees members and business leaders around Cleveland.

Universities often invite successful people to give motivational speeches and share their own life experience as an example for students who are on the verge of launching their own careers. But often students are lost to the conversations on their electronic gizmos and nothing essentially gets done. No one is inspired, unless their phone dies, and they don’t have a choice except to listen. However, Mixon’s visit to Cleveland State was the complete opposite.

“He had a real message, that was truly inspiring,” said Jon Fedor, secretary of the Cleveland State Student Government Association.

Mixon’s story was not one of extreme hardship, nor was it one of extraordinary excellence. He was normal.

The son of a salesman, Mixon knew that he wanted to attend college after high school but he never intended to attend Harvard.

“I never had any intention to go to Harvard, my father apparently thought that I could go, so without me knowing he sent in an application to Harvard and I guess they took an interest in my case…” Mixon said.

He still sounded puzzled.

He spoke extensively on leadership and what it means to be a true leader. After graduating from college, he spent four years serving in the military. His military experience is the one that he valued most. Mixon would go on to obtain his MBA degree, but he feels that his time in the military taught him the most about leadership.

“It taught me more than Harvard did and it even taught me more than B-school did,” Mixon said. “There’s a difference between having the management responsibility of a certain amount of people and actually being a leader.”

After about 30 minutes, Berkman opened the dialogue up to questions to be asked from the students in the audience and later business professionals.

Mixon, who has spoken at many colleges, encouraged students to one day start their own business.

“Get a piece of the rock,” Mixon said in his closing remarks.