Woodbury University celebrates its 2016 graduates

Woodbury University celebrated its 2016 graduates on Saturday as about 400 students walked across the stage to accept their diplomas.

Of those students, nearly 260 earned undergraduate degrees and about 125 received master's degrees.

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In his speech, commencement speaker Eugene Blefari drew upon his humble beginnings growing up with a working-class Italian family in Sunnyvale before getting a job and putting himself through college, becoming the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Blefari worked at a local golf course to pay for his classes while he was attending San Jose State University.

By the time he was 23, he was working as the golf course's superintendent. After a developer came along to build homes on the golf course, Blefari worked in construction as those homes were built, but he found the work unfulfilling.

He later enrolled in a real estate course at a local college and, by the mid-1980s, was working for a brokerage firm named Fox & Carskadon.

In 2002, he founded Intero Real Estate Services and sold the company to Warren Buffett in 2014.

As part of the deal, Blefari became chief executive of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and he oversees a brokerage network that includes more than 1,500 offices across 48 states with 47,000 agents.

"From the neighborhood golf course guy to global real estate CEO, I've gotten here largely on my ability to work hard and chase down my goals and dreams," he told the students.

He encouraged them to find their calling, set their goals and "get passionate."

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He also shared seven of his principles for success, including to commit wholly to their jobs, have a good morning routine, be humble, build a great team, provide extraordinary service, read one hour a day and continuously improve, and by that, he told them to never stop growing, learning or hiding their talents.

"When you are through changing, you are through. If you're silent, you'll be forgotten. If you don't believe in yourself, that will make it unanimous. If you do not advance, you will fall back. If you walk away from any challenge today, your self-esteem will be forever scarred, and if you cease to grow even a little, you will become smaller. Reject the stationary position because it is always the beginning of the end," he said.

Of the students who graduated on Saturday, nearly 100 earned a bachelor of architecture degree, while about 30 earned a bachelor of arts degree and nearly 70 earned their bachelor's degree in business administration.

Another roughly 70 students earned bachelor's degrees in fine arts, while six earned a bachelor of science degree.

Nearly 30 students earned master's degrees in architecture, and another 30 received master of arts degrees, while 60 earned master's degrees in business administration.

Two students earned master's degrees in interior architecture, while about 10 earned master of science in architecture degrees.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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