The hush of a crowded auditorium—filled with graduates, families, teachers and administrators—had caused the listeners to wonder who exactly was standing behind the podium as their guest speaker for the 2015 Commencement Ceremony. This 1985 graduate recently turned some heads in the community when he organized the “Woodward Weight Room Challenge,” while contributing to a new state-of-the-art facility at LakeVille High School. Best-selling author, Guiness World Record Holder and co-founder of a multi-million dollar leadership company (Life Leadership), Orrin Woodward grew up in the small community encompassing Columbiaville, Otisville and Otter Lake in Michigan and has never forgotten his roots.
Prior to the 2015 school year, Orrin met with Superintendent Vickie Luoma and Principal Mary Haslinger of LakeVille High School, to discuss ways to inspire the next generation:
“Our students lack belief in themselves. They think that they have less opportunity and chances for success because they are from a small town.” -Mary Haslinger (Principal of LakeVille High)
“I originally contacted Orrin to help us help our students understand that they are important and, like Orrin, have the capacity to change the world if they have the desire and are willing to do the hard work necessary.” -Vickie Lumoa (Superintendent of LakeVille Community Schools)
Orrin remembers his earlier days attending LakeVille, and the teachers who influenced him. One such elementary school teacher was Frans Luoma (late husband of Vickie Luoma), who later transitioned into being the principal, as well as becoming one of Orrin’s first mentors growing up. Because of the great start that LakeVille gave Orrin, he knew he wanted to help somehow. At the start of the school year, he spoke to the teaching staff and shared stories of growing up there—and how the relationships he developed with teachers helped him and gave him the strength to get through the difficult times.
“His message to the teachers was powerful, and it helped our staff also believe in their capacity to impact the future generations. Many of our teachers work with 150 students per year; in a 30-year career, his message could impact many, many generations of students.” -Vickie Luoma (Superintendent)
Before finding the need and organizing the efforts to raise money to build a new weight room for the high school, Orrin also spoke to the student-athletes prior to the 2015 school year. He then officially committed to match dollar-for-dollar of the money that the students raised.
“Orrin’s sponsorship of the weight room challenge was unique. He made our students his partners in improving their environment. They had accountability for improving their program. Our students took great pride in what they helped build and they feel very special because one of their own (a LakeVille Falcon) and a person of Orrin’s importance was willing to give them not only his money, but his time. The amount of money they worked together to raise is pretty astounding in a school district with a 60% free and reduced lunch rate.” -Vickie Luoma (Superintendent)
On Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015, Orrin went a step deeper into the LakeVille legacy when he stood before the 2015 graduating class to share an important message to the students.
“Follow your dreams even when it’s tough, and even when people say you can’t do it. Winners do what the rest say cannot be done. LakeVille was a great place to have roots, and now it’s time for the 2015 Falcons to spread their wings.” -Orrin Woodward
Orrin’s story—which consisted of detailed humor of his humble beginnings—certainly showed the students that if they believed in themselves and worked hard, they could do and be anything that they put their minds to. The crowd stayed engaged, entertained and inspired throughout the duration of Orrin’s message; and the buzz from parents, students and teachers could be heard for hours after the ceremony.
“Many people commented on how inspirational Orrin was. He actually had a really hard time getting out of the auditorium and parking lot because students, parents and grandparents kept stopping and thanking him…my late husband Frans would talk so highly of him, and when I first met him last summer he was exactly who my husband descibed him to be. Orrin is a very genuine person who has worked hard and has overcome a lot of adversity for his success. He has never forgotten where he came from (and always stayed in touch with Frans until his passing), and is an outstanding leader—he truly lives the verse, ‘to whom much is given, much will be required’ (Luke 12:48 )” -Vickie Luoma (Superintendent)
“Orrin Woodward is a guy who is about all of the right stuff—our kids (the next generation) and his family; He is an incredibly authentic and genuine person.” -Mary Huslinger (Principal)
It’s been said that the heart of a leader is a reflection of their character. Orrin is a servant leader who cares about people, strives to make a difference and aspires to leave a legacy that will impact the next generation. Helping the LakeVille High community was just one way he knew to give back. He comments:
“If you are blessed, then be a blessing. Mr. Frans Luoma poured encouragement and truth into me—as well as other teachers and coaches at LakeVille—and I wanted to pay it forward.” -Orrin Woodward
The 2015 LakeVille High Commencement committee nailed it when they appointed Orrin Woodward as the speaker. Not only does he lead and influence tens of thousands of people in Life Leadership, he is now impacting the young lives of those in the community where he grew up. Orrin is grateful to have had the early guidance from Mr. Luoma, who taught him, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”—and he hopes that his story will motivate the students to never stop chasing their dreams.