Kent State alumnus speaks on overcoming challenges

Kent graduate Norbert Nobby Lewandowski sings New York, New York to a crowd of students while speaking at the College of Business. Photo by Brian Smith.

Kent graduate Norbert “Nobby” Lewandowski sings “New York, New York” to a crowd of students while speaking at the College of Business. Photo by Brian Smith.

Lyndsey Sager

Motivational speaker and Kent State alumnus Norbert “Nobby” Lewandowski spoke to business students Thursday night about “Leadership, Integrity and Success.”

Lewandowski began his presentation with a sing-along to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

“I did that for one reason and one reason only,” Lewandowski said. “I have a speech impediment.”

Lewandowski said he was 5 or 6 years old when he realized he could not speak like everyone else because he stuttered.

To compensate, Lewandowski said he worked hard at athletics, eventually receiving Kent State’s first ever baseball scholarship. Lewandowski also served as the captain of the University’s baseball team in 1959 and went on to play professional baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Because baseball players were not making a lot of money in 1960, Lewandowski said he decided to go back to school and get his MBA from Case Western Reserve University.

Lewandowski went on to become a certified public accountant. He worked for the second largest account firm in the world until he was fired for an “inability to communicate.”

“I said to him ‘Thank you for the opportunity to work here but you’re confusing an ability to speak fluently with an ability to communicate,’” Lewandowski said.

“I went home and read the books ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’” Lewandowski said. “I wrote out 66 goals I was going to accomplish in my life and one of the 66 was to be a national motivational speaker.”

Lewandowski said he did 39 speeches last year at colleges and high schools all over the country.

“I love America,” Lewandowski said. “Where else could you be a paid public speaker with a speech impediment?”

Lewandowski said that so far he has reached 54 of the original 66 goals he made after he was fired.

Lewandowski has also received many awards from Kent State. In 1990, he was the University’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. The next year, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees.

Donald McFall, the Accounting Association’s faculty adviser, said Lewandowski usually speaks at Kent State every couple of years, and last year, he was the Accounting Association’s “Presenter of the Year.”

“He is a very impressive man,” McFall said. “Despite his speaking disability, he communicates better than any other person I have ever heard speak.”

Lewandowski asked that the audience think of his speech impediment as a challenge rather than a handicap.

He said that the sooner he accepted who he was, which he described as a “Pollock with a speech impediment,” he could begin his life.

“I don’t think I have ever been as interested in what a speaker had to say than I was tonight,” said Taylor Birney, the Accounting Association’s community service officer. “It was very inspiring.”

Lewandowski finished his presentation the same way it began — with a rendition of “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People.

“It was a great motivational speech,” said Adam Martinson, graduate accounting student. “He really made you think about what he was saying and how it could affect your life.”

Contact Lyndsey Sager at [email protected].