“Life Is Good” Co-Founder Delivers Inspirational Commencement Speech and a Few Well-Thrown Frisbees

Villanova University was blessed to have Bert Jacobs, co-founder of the Life is Good brand, as its commencement speaker this past weekend.

Bert started selling t-shirts with his brother John out of a van back in 1989. But as their web site points out, it was not very prosperous. They lived on peanut butter and jelly, slept in their van, and showered when they could.

By the Fall of 1994, heading home from a long, less-than-fruitful road trip, Bert and John were desperately searching for answers to keep the dream alive. Little did they know, the only answer they needed was back in Boston, hanging up on their apartment wall.

Jake’s contagious grin, simple as it was, seemed to express everything the Jacobs brothers believed in.

One fateful September day, they printed up 48 Jake shirts for a local street fair in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They laid the shirts out on their rickety card table. By noontime, all 48 of those tees were gone. A star was born. Now their clothing company, based on positive lifestyle, is a $100 million brand with more than 2,000 retailers across the U.S. and Canada. Their Life is Good Foundation donates at least 10 percent of its annual profits to needy children and has helped more than a million kids.

Here’s the speech; I’ve included parts of the speech as a transcript below the video

Highlights:

  • When comparing his class of 1987 with the current student body, he told the crowd the following:
    • 2019 graduate Joseph McHale collaborated with NASA on a camera to take infrared images of “massive star formations in neighboring galaxies.” A member of the junior class was part of a team that took the first photograph of a black hole in space. “We take hand-drawn images of smiling stick figures and put them on T-shirts,” said Jacobs.
  • Jacobs told the students to follow three rules to be happy on the “road trip of life.”
    • The first rule is to “turn on the lights”. Choose to be an optimist and give off positive energy.
    • Secondly, “trust your navigation system”. Be courageous. Be full of gratitude. Fight for what you believe in and work for a company that you believe in.
    • The third rule is “enjoy the ride”. As we get older we realize what we need is time to do what you love and be with the people you love.
  • Jacobs threw a total of eight frisbees during the ceremony, and some of those throws had to be at least 50 yards. His brother threw two Frisbees to the crowd. He noted that one of the throws was to someone who looked like he was from the class of 1830.
  • He noted that the Frisbees retail for $16, but since he and his brother signed them, they are now worth $10.
  • Jacobs wore a pair of shorts underneath his graduation gown

All in all, a great commencement speech.

Thank you, Bert, for your high energy, humorous, and inspirational speech.

The only disappointment was that no Frisbees were tossed towards the faculty. I guess he figured many of us would panic if we saw a flying object heading in our direction…

*image from Life Is Good web site

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