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Failing to learn

Inaugural alumni executive lecturer says failure is valuable teacher

By Rori Francis Blakeney

Reflecting upon his four-year tenure at, a network of Asian web sites, John Mims ’82 said, “Failure is sometimes a better teacher than success. As chief operating officer of, I failed. I couldn’t get the vision to the customer.”

A business and marketing graduate, Mims believes failure makes the next success even sweeter. Last November, he was tapped to serve as senior vice president of worldwide sales for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, owners of brands including Sheraton, Westin and W Hotel. On campus for the Maynard Jackson Lecture Series, which is a part of the Alumni Executive Lecture Series, in September, Mims told faculty, staff, students and alumni that there are a number of things that make great leaders--including failure.

“Integrity, the ability to communicate a vision with passion and using the network of people that you meet throughout your life are a few of those things,” he said. “In addition to family, school is one of those networks.”

According to Henry M. Goodgame ’84, director of Alumni Relations, Special Events and the Annual Fund, the Alumni Executive Lecture Series seeks to provide more interaction between alumni and students. Mims’ presentation was the first of six lectures in the Alumni Lecture Series that will be held throughout the academic year.

At Morehouse, Mims remembers the influence of visionaries such as John Williams ‘69, dean of the Division of the Economic and Business Administration, Martin Luther King ’48 and Benjamin E. Mays, all of whom set the standard for success for his career. He credits Ben McLaurin ‘69, director of Career Services, for securing his first interview.

Mims credits Williams and McLaurin with helping him get his career started.

“It’s important to reach back that we may move forward. Morehouse is an experience, not just an education. It was more than school; it was a preparation for what it's like out here," he said.

Mims’ Strategies for Success

  • Integrity
  • Ability to communicate a vision with passion
  • Long-term focus
  • Teamwork
  • Network

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