Ralph Crowley Jr., president and CEO of Polar Beverages, delivers Nichols College commencement address

May 4, 2024
Ingrid de Souza Oliveira

DUDLEY, Mass. – Ralph Crowley Jr., president and chief executive officer of Polar Beverages, shared business lessons and life advice as he delivered the Commencement address during the Nichols College Commencement Ceremony on May 4, 2024. A total of 329 students participated in the graduation ceremony held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass.

Crowley has led the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company since 1992. Under Crowley’s leadership, Polar Beverages has grown from an $18M to a $1B enterprise and is now the largest privately owned sparkling beverage bottler in the country. He is the fourth generation of the Crowley family to own and operate the company, which can trace its history to a spring water company founded in 1882 in Worcester by Crowley’s great-grandfather. Crowley also sits on the Board of Directors of the Worcester Red Sox; he was instrumental in bringing the Triple-A affiliate team, who play their home games in Polar Park, to Central Massachusetts, which he’s noted was his way of giving back to the community.

Crowley and Amy Pitter, former chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, each received an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration during the commencement ceremony.

“Why has Polar been successful? Our secret sauce is people, relationships, customers and a clear and consistent business strategy,” said Crowley during his remarks, pointing out that Nichols students have built a solid foundation for success thanks in part to their peers on campus.

“Some of the most important lessons, you already know from your fellow students here—just by living, studying, playing sports or watching sports [together]. I hope you keep those friendships and cherish them.”

He emphasized to the graduates the value of time and leading a meaningful career. “Time is your most valuable and precious asset. Once it’s gone, it can’t be regained. Do not waste time on a job you do not love. Your occupation is more than financial stability. It should provide you with personal satisfaction, even an identity, a chance to grow a sense of purpose.

“But most of all, my message to you is business is fun, and enjoy it.”

Nichols College President William Pieczynski began his remarks by commending the students for their perseverance in enduring the conditions imposed by the pandemic and urged the graduates to continue to embrace the value of their education.

He noted how his deep appreciation for education is inspired by his family of educators and quoted John Adams, the second president of the U.S. and passionate advocate for education.

“I am hopeful that Nichols has given you the confidence to stand collected. The wings to think freely, and the humility to appreciate the value of your education,” said Pieczynski.

He assured the graduates that their confidence in themselves is well-placed. “The class of 2024 has left an indelible impression on me. You are bright, motivated and resilient. You are resourceful, poised leaders and supportive teammates and friends. You have proven yourself in the classroom and on the playing fields, through your real-life experiences and consulting, event planning, intelligent automation, business management and entrepreneurship, just to name a few.”

Senior Class President Ingrid de Souza Oliveira recalled the interesting circumstances during which the Class of 2024 entered college. “It is undeniable that our time on the hill has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said de Souza Oliveira. “Looking back to when we were going through a pandemic, and we were restricted to our rooms—only interacting with our roommates. Despite these initial limitations, we emerged from those challenging times with an unwavering determination to thrive. We seized every opportunity to immerse ourselves into the campus culture.

“Our class has embodied the spirit of engagement and involvement. […] When we saw an opportunity to make Nichols a better place, we did not just complain on Yik Yak; we worked hard to improve the quality of life for each other. That is why we are here today, and we did it.”

Ellis Cropper, the class of 2024 graduate student speaker, shared how his experience in the Executive MBA program at Nichols solidified his thoughts on the importance of lifelong learning and service for a happy life.

In his work teaching financial literacy to elementary school children, a passion project where he utilizes a model of transformative leadership he learned at Nichols, he’s experienced “new levels of happiness,” he told the crowd.

“These kids remind me, every day, that where I am is where I’m supposed to be. And the best days of my life are when I’ve made a positive difference in the life of another.

“So, I challenge you to consider, how can I help another?” offered Cropper.

“Keep learning and keep finding ways to help others. Take what you have learned and make the world a better place. I promise you that in doing so – a joyful life will follow.”

For more information on the event or to watch a recording of the ceremony, check out our YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ly4d3SnFOwo

To view a Flickr album of photos from commencement, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/200109811@N08/albums/72177720316695756/

(Pictured: Senior Class President Ingrid de Souza Oliveira delivers remarks during the Nichols College 2024 commencement ceremony held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass.)

About Nichols College

Nichols College has earned business accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the longest serving global accrediting body for business schools and the largest business education network connecting learners, educators, and businesses worldwide. Founded in 1815, Nichols College transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols offers real-world learning focused on professional depth – combined with vibrant living, competitive athletics, and an unmatched alumni advantage – equipping students to exceed their own expectations. www.nichols.edu

Media Contact:  

Denise Kelley  

Marketing and Communications Writer/Editor