Exercises in making goodFeatures — July 21, 2011
More years ago than he might care to recall, Bruce Varner earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and soon enough took a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. But “to the great dismay of my parents,” he says, he never walked at either of the commencement ceremonies held to celebrate those graduating classes. So it was with some satisfaction when he rose to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during a graduation ceremony at Cal State San Bernardino in June that, at long last, he was able to share the moment in front of family.
“I’ve learned over the years that it takes a lot less effort to achieve success than it does to endure failure.”
At CSUSB’s College of Business and Public Administration commencement, Varner spoke and did not waste time giving graduates much advice.
“The good news for all of you is that I had prepared some remarks, but after listening to what you’ve accomplished, I think probably I should be listening to you instead of trying to tell you things that you’ve already learned from this great institution.” With that, Varner, a senior partner with the law firm Varner & Brandt LLP, succeeded in fetching the appreciation of this Class of 2011 in two ways – the exercise of humility and brevity.
What clues for the future he did distribute were fundamental and often forgotten. Fight the urge to be cynical or pessimistic, he told graduates. “Because I’ve learned over the years that it takes a lot less effort to achieve success than it does to endure failure.”
He did know something of the shifting world these fresh minds, full of mission and innovation, were entering. Varner specializes in general business, corporate and transactional law. His family’s legal roots date back to the late 1800s, and he’s been practicing law in the Inland Empire since 1963.
For at least as long, Varner has been practicing what he preaches as well. “Build relationships in your communities and get involved in community service. Not only is it fun but it’s good, and you can make good while you’re doing good.”
One of his community service passions has been to support Cal State San Bernardino, and for his own achievements in business the university gave him the 2004 Arrowhead Distinguished Executive Officer Award. He serves on the CSUSB Foundation Board of Governors, and was one of the financial founders of the Coyote athletics program, helping to fund the development of the university’s athletic facilities, including Coussoulis Arena.
Both of Varner’s parents have passed away. And while he did not do it to atone for any commencement transgressions he may have committed as a young man, in the mid-1990s, he and his wife, Nancy, established one of the original athletic scholarships at CSUSB. Named in honor of his parents, Ann and Doyle Varner, the scholarship supports student athletes majoring in business or public administration and who maintain a 3.25 GPA.