Dinners for 12 Warriors

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to succeed.
Better to work toward affluence than pretend to be affluent.
Do things for love, not money.

Dinners for 12 Warriors

CSU Stanislaus business majors appreciated plainspoken wisdom over a meal hosted by an alumnus as part of the “Dinners for 12 Warriors” series designed to bring together alumni and students.

“There are life lessons you can pass along to students that would’ve been good for me to have known,” said host Richard Ronten, owner and president of California and Utah Property Investments, LLC. A 1971 business graduate, Ronten has served as alumni president and an advisory board member for the Stockton campus.

He and co-host Celine Leung welcomed a small group of students, many of them athletes or student leaders. Joining them were Joseph F. Sheley, CSU Stanislaus president; Shirley Pok, vice president of University Advancement; Lisa McMullen, director of Alumni Relations; and Professor Lynn Johnson, interim chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance.

“It was very casual. I was able to get to know him on a personal level and learn from his experience. It was awesome to see someone who doesn’t live extravagantly but does something he really loves,” said student Katie Copeland.

The first in his family to finish college, Ronten grew up in Tuolumne City with a homemaker mother and a father who worked in lumber.

“The students seemed surprised that what I have, I earned. Living a simple life right out of college can pay for itself down the road,” he remarked. “I bought the oldest car, used furniture, and clothes from Goodwill.”

Ronten and tennis player Jessica Stokes connected over their shared passion for tennis.

“One important thing I took away was to find something you love in life and go for it, because no matter what it is, as long as you have the drive and passion for it, you will be successful,” Stokes said.

Ronten is most intrigued by business, reading about it for up to four hours daily. He credits business professor Thomas Barrett for teaching him this key to compete with those considered smarter.

“Your formal education gets you a job; your self-education can make you successful,” he said.

Those around the lunch table represented a diverse range of experiences.

“Their stories reminded me that age, heritage, social stature, etc. have nothing to do with the potential for success. To be successful means taking the initiative in any kind of educational opportunity to enhance your knowledge,” said Yvonne Serrano, a member of the board of directors of Associated Students, Inc.

Having mentored Stanford University international doctoral students for whom English is a second language, Ronten was pleased to do the same for CSU Stanislaus students.

“Students have an equal opportunity to do well for themselves. They can take advantage of tools to level the playing field. People like myself can give them guidance on which tools to use,” he said.

“Dinners for 12 Warriors” is an ongoing program to enhance alumni and student engagement. Alumni interested in sharing their experience may contact Lisa McMullen, director of alumni relations, at (209) 667-3836 or lmcmullen@csustan.edu.