Mitch Baran says the achievement of his Western degree, along with the inspiration drawn from the memory of his parents, are validation he had the tools to overcome challenges in his younger years.
“While our society is full of uncontrolled skepticism, which extends to questioning the value of a university degree, I strongly believe, on the contrary, that based on my personal experience the degree you have earned is indeed a significant accomplishment and it will serve you well as you go forth in life,” he says.
Baran spoke to 430 graduates from the Faculty of Health Sciences (except Nursing) and the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the June 14 morning session of Western’s 297th Convocation.
The University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Law upon Baran in recognition of his pioneering work in the field of medical device innovations and generosity within the London community.
The son of Polish immigrants, Baran’s adherence to hard work and optimism is the key driver of his company’s success. As chairman of Trudell Medical Group, a family-owned medical device company, he has transformed it from a small London distributing firm to a powerhouse global health care company. Under his leadership, the company expanded from 12 to more than 1,300 full- and part-time employees and the company was awarded Corporate Icon of the Year at London’s Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards.
Baran cites the love and support of his parents, and how they struggled through the Great Depression, as an inspiration for how he looked at life.
“In spite of the poverty they experienced, their perseverance, work ethic and ability to cope with life without complaining, not to mention bringing up four children, left me with a legacy that anything is possible with perseverance, a good work ethic and focus,” he says.
Baran’s community involvement is best demonstrated through his work as President of the Mitchell and Kathryn Baran Family Foundation, where he has contributed many grants to organizations in London and Toronto, including the Salvation Army, London Community Foundation, United Way and the Boys & Girls Club.
Through Trudell, Baran is also an active supporter of London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western.
In speaking to the Health Science graduates, Baran says they would have the privileged opportunity, like him, to provide quality health care to patients and experience the passion and satisfaction of helping someone.
“You have made an excellent choice to enter the health-care field and will experience the incredible high that comes with helping people and getting paid for your efforts – it doesn’t get any better,” says Baran, a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business (1959).
“If I could offer any advice to you it would be to maintain a positive attitude, seldom if ever complain and always remember that innovation does not apply only to technology, it should also be practiced in your daily life and I guarantee, it will indeed enhance your quality of life.”
In his citation, Richard Ivey School of Business professor James Hatch says Baran has applied the knowledge gained from his business degree to both his work and volunteer pursuits.
“A passionate believer in innovation, Mr. Baran has refused to work within traditional boundaries, having ventured into a variety of areas throughout his career, including agriculture, property development and groundbreaking medical devices,” says Hatch. “He has also encouraged the development of next-generation leaders through his generous support of student awards and medical research. Mr. Baran has indeed enacted the virtuous circle and inspired others to follow suit.”
As part of the ceremony, the status of Professor Emeritus was conferred upon Kinesiology professor and former Mustang football coach Larry Haylor.