Alumna Cy Wakeman to students: "Wisdom comes from questioning"

Alumna Cy Wakeman to students: “Wisdom comes from questioning”

On Tuesday, May 16, Briar Cliff University awarded author and motivational speaker Cy Wakeman with the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. In this video message, Wakeman offers a few reflections and some advice to the graduating Class of 2017.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Briar Cliff University has awarded renowned author and motivational speaker Cynthia (Cy) Wakeman the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is given to someone that has obtained a degree from Briar Cliff, lives a life reflective of Catholic Franciscan ideals, excels in professional activities and demonstrates personal commitment to Briar Cliff. It is presented annually at the Toast to the Tassel senior sendoff event, celebrating graduates' initiation as Briar Cliff alumni.

Intellect is knowing, but wisdom comes from questioning. So I hope you question the world often.

—Cy Wakeman '91, Distinguished Alumni Award Winner

“Intellect is knowing, but wisdom comes from questioning,” Wakeman said in a message to the Class of 2017. “So I hope that you question the world often.”

It’s not necessarily what Wakeman does that makes her a deserving recipient of this award, but rather how she does it. Wakeman is a dynamic international keynote speaker, drama researcher, New York Times best-selling author and trainer who has spent more than 20 years cultivating a revolutionary approach to leadership. She’s successful at these things, because she understands the core values that motivate people, values which were instilled early on in her life and reinforced during her time at Briar Cliff.

Grounded in reality, Wakeman’s philosophy teaches people to be result-driven, accountable, successful, and most importantly — happy — members of the workforce. That’s probably why Wakeman is a highly sought-after conference headliner and holds a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speaker’s Association, placing her within the top 3 percent of speakers nationwide.

“Cy brings out the best in people and she makes people see the best in themselves,” says Tina Stroud, vice president for university relations at Briar Cliff. “Briar Cliff has many successful alumni that could earn this recognition, but Cy stood out as our 2017 recipient, because she models the Franciscan values that teach respect, compassion, service and integrity.”

An expert blogger on, and The Huffington Post, Wakeman has been featured on TODAY Show, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Insider, The Daily Muse, and She has released two books, "Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace & Turn Excuses into Results" (Jossey-Bass; 2010) and "The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace: Know What Boosts Your Value, Kills Your Chances, & Will Make You Happier" (Jossey-Bass; 2013). Her newest book, "No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement, and Drive Big Results," is scheduled to be released in September of this year.

Outside of work, Wakeman is a philanthropist that supports cancer research, the American Heart Association, Young Professionals Groups, Race for the Cure and many other organizations. As a supporter of Briar Cliff, Wakeman is a big advocate for the Catholic Franciscan values instilled through her time on campus and holds a special place for many of the professors that mentored her during her years there.

Wakeman holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa; a bachelor’s degree in social work from Briar Cliff University and a master’s degree in health administration from Clarkson College in Omaha, Neb. She has eight sons, ranging in age from 13 to 25. Four belong to her and four came to her through her marriage to Richard Runnels. The family currently resides in Omaha, Neb.

Tags: Alumni, Social Work, Business, Graduation, BCU, Commencement, Commencement 2017, Graduation 2017