Rita Rao Addresses Graduates 50380606 00701 0065

Press Release                                                                                       

Date: January 17, 2024

Contact: Lisa Garrett, lgarrett@tctc.edu

Former Mattel Toy Executive Rita Rao Delivers Fall Commencement Address

Clemson, SC – Rita Rao, a retired toy executive, was the keynote speaker at Tri-County Technical College’s fall commencement.

The ceremony was held December 18 at Clemson University’s Brooks Center for the Performing Arts.  Two hundred and forty-six graduates earned degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Rao’s career began as an entry-level marketing research analyst and concluded as executive vice president for the largest toy company in the world, Mattel, Inc. Responsible for worldwide product design, engineering, manufacturing and marketing, she managed $2 billion in sales with one of the biggest brand names in history, the Barbie doll.

In her address, Rao urged the graduates “Don’t let roadblocks and setbacks get in the way of meeting your goals.” 

Rao began her career when there were few women in the business world.  She was the only female business major in her graduating class at Indiana University. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, few corporate doors were open to women, she said.

“It's clear that I was quite determined, I'd like to say bold, and maybe even fearless. But, I have to confess, that's not really the truth. I was naive and oblivious. Oblivious .... not a word that is usually associated with success. But, in hindsight, I realized that it was kind of a gift. It worked for me because I simply never saw obstacles as getting in my way to meeting my goals.”

“Maybe I should have noticed that corporate recruiters who came to the (Indiana University) campus would never interview women; maybe I should have been aware that driving by myself to California alone and without a job might be fraught with risks, and perhaps I should have taken to heart that all the replies to my job-seeking letters were answered with... ‘I’m sorry but we don't hire women.’"

Rao views being oblivious as a gift that contributed to her perseverance. “I thought that you  just keep going and  something good will happen,” she said.

She continued to balance that oblivion with perseverance, hard work and reality. “I finally did get a job in the field of marketing research and was blessed because that job grounded me in reality and a tremendous respect for and a strong desire to understand the consumer. This was a guiding principle my entire career.”

Later, her first job at Mattel Toys was also in marketing research. “Although a low-level employee, I had the opportunity to present research findings to the top executives, even the president and chairman of the board.  It was a small exciting company filled with dynamic young people.  I loved my work and I worked hard. I was noticed and started to move up the ladder,” she said.

“After several years, something happened that totally shook me off my oblivious path. I was passed over for a promotion while two other people at my level who managed much less sales and profit were promoted. Reality kicked in and I saw that working hard and well was not enough. I had to show upper management that I was more commanding, more decisive, ready for a powerful position.  I could also see that they would never view me that way. I quit my job and jumped off the deep end to start my own company.”

For eight years she designed and manufactured toys for key retailers such as Walmart, Target, and others.

“Then the Mattel folks who had passed me over for that promotion called and offered me the job of senior vice president. I would be running the Barbie business as well as other toy categories. And what a thrill this was...it was like still having my own business, except that it was huge, highly profitable and known everywhere on the planet. It was glorious, and I was so unbelievably fortunate. I stayed at Mattel another 11 years, rounding out my tenure with international assignments,” she said.

“I've said a lot about how I conquered the world, but I couldn't have done it without the help of a very famous woman-     Barbie. Plastic, not much going on under all that blonde hair, obsessed with her clothes, shoes and possessions, living in a world of pink perfection. Talk about oblivious! But she made it work for her too. Maybe you didn't know that at the very beginning, none of the toy retailers would put her in their stores. They were sure that Barbie would never sell. That seemingly ditsy blonde was not so oblivious after all.  Sixty-four years later, she is still going strong. In fact, Forbes magazine just came out with their list of the 100 most powerful women in the world...and Barbie was on that list.”

The message from the Barbie movie, which earned more than $1.38 billion worldwide and is the highest grossing film in Warner Bros’100-year history, was “pretty solid,” Rao said. “And that message can work for you. Don't let roadblocks and setbacks get in your way.”

Following the speech, Tri-County President Galen DeHay and other College officials presented degrees, diplomas and certificates to the following graduates:

Anderson County

From Anderson:

Paeton Jolee Ashley, Administrative Office Technology; Andrew Hamilton Bailes, Nursing, Associate in Arts; Raun Hasby Basyari, Mechatronics Technology; Bryson Dale Beard, Associate in Arts; Cameron Bruce Berry, Mechatronics Technology; Syasia Kania Brooks, Personal Care Aide; Allison M. Bryant, Computer Technology - Software and Web Development Emphasis; Steven Gerard Cheek, Media Arts Production; David Coleman, III, Multi-Process Welding; Audrey Adair Conyers, Nursing; Gavin Cook, SMA Structural Welding; Samantha Cheyenne Davenport, Associate in Science; Robert Alan Donald, Media Arts Production; Amanda Grace Drawdy, Business Administration - Entrepreneur Emphasis; Brittany Faye Evans, Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis; Vivien C. Felarca, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Adam Frialde, Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis; Felicia Renee Gambrell, Early Childhood Development; Sydney Glisson, Practical Nursing; Breanna Leigh Harrison, Early Care and Education; Juliana S. K. Haywood, Nursing; Calder Helfrich, Welding Technology; Christopher M. Henderson, Mechatronics Technology; Cierra Dezirae Henderson, Manufacturing Production I; Shanna Marie Hudson, Nursing; Chequella Nicole Jones, Associate in Science; Cornesha Tamia Lagroon, Criminal Justice Technology - Law Enforcement Operations Emphasis; Aiden Reginald Luper, Industrial Welding; Kimberly Nicole Lynch, Nursing; Twila Autumn Madden, Associate in Arts; Kinlee Reece Martin, Associate in Arts; Preslie Renee McCuen, Associate in Science; William Porter McLeod, Associate in Arts; Ethan Mcclain, Manufacturing Production I; Philip Sergey Meyko, Surgical Technology; Jackson D. Morehouse, Computer Technology - Software and Web Development Emphasis; Cullen S. Oliver, Business Administration - Management Emphasis; Cameron Halston Osborne, Automotive Technology; Justin L. Owens, Associate in Science; Logan Alexis Perry, Nursing; Marisa Cole Plumley, Surgical Technology; Kara Jocelyn Poore, Nursing, Associate in Arts; Alexsander Alexseevich Pyshnyi, Mechatronics Technology; Jesus Reyes, Engineering Systems Technology; Angela Brooke Richey, Practical Nursing; Furman Walker Ridgeway, Computer Technology - Software and Web Development Emphasis; Jennifer Rodriguez Vargas, Nursing; Alexander Stone Shepherd, Associate in Science; Edward A. Shiffler, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology; Anna Riley Shumpert, Nursing; Jonah Glenn Simmons, Nursing; Armani Ni'Rubyan Singleton, Media Arts Production; Tristan Garrett Stone, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology; Collin Walker Sugden, Associate in Arts; DeAnna Quashawn Thomas, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Michelle Emily Thrasher, Nursing; Maylinh Ngoc Tran, Associate in Science; Jackson Truluck, Welding Technology; Charles Eakin Waters, Associate in Science; Keondre Deshawn Williams, Personal Care Aide; and Weslee Norris Williams, Mechatronics Technology

From Belton:

Jaden Nicole Asselta, Business Administration - Management Emphasis; Tiffany Kayla Attaway, Nursing; Thomas Eric Barnes, Associate in Science; William Iler Capps, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology; Kendel Breanne Davenport, Media Arts Production; Landon Kade Gossett, Manufacturing Production I; William Lewis Haynie, Multi-Process Welding; and Amy Leann Mann, Associate in Science

From Honea Path:

Meredith Caitlin Ashley, Associate in Science; and Mattison Ashley Shirley, Media Arts Production

From Iva:

Courtney Marie Brady, Surgical Technology; Kimberly Santana Groves, Practical Nursing; Ivan Clyde Palma, Associate in Science; Camden Lee Shaw, Technical Operators I; and Charles Randall Smith, Associate in Science

From Pelzer:

Krystal Cain Blume, Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis; Briana S. Murphy, Media Arts Production; Jacob Glenn Rector, Business Administration; and Kaci Lee Stewart, Nursing

From Pendleton:

Ashley Bell, Personal Care Aide; Frances Claire Calvert, University Studies; Jauterious Malik Downs, Manufacturing Production I; Maya Alicia Johnson, Business Administration; and Austin Lee VanSickle, Accounting

From Piedmont:

Francisco Aguero-Luviano, Associate in Arts; Haley Brianna Cayetano, Photography; Valerie Rose Johnson, Associate in Arts; Raechel Rene' McConnell, Emergency Medical Technology; Michael Anthony O'Connell, Automotive Technology; John Grayson Porter, Nursing; Amanda Jane Sloan, Nursing; Mitchell Lee Story, Manufacturing Production I; and Teonna Tyjae Wilson, Practical Nursing

From Sandy Springs:

Grant Edward O'Shields, Auto Engine Electrical Systems

From Starr:

Melissa Branham, Associate in Science; Kerri Samantha Bridges, Business Administration - Management Emphasis; Christopher Lawrence Campbell, Mechatronics Technology; Joseph Gavin Fields, Technical Operators I; Aquan Shyheim Taylor, Mechatronics Technology; and Darrah Elizabeth Williamson, Practical Nursing

From Townville:

Rylee Lisette Guernsey, Surgical Technology

From Williamston:

Dezin Brock Acree, Associate in Science; Nastassja Farran Hunter, Data Entry Clerk; Forrest Hunter Vickery, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; and Stevianna Nicole Woodson, Associate in Science

Oconee County

From Fair Play:

Maria Rose Owens, Nursing; and Sonja Olivia Anne Worley, Associate in Science

From Long Creek:

Marissa Anastasia Morgan, Associate in Arts

From Salem:

Katrina Marie Balon, Nursing

From Seneca:

Rebeca Ann Bernazzoli, Media Arts Production; Ivy Blake Bowden, Associate in Arts; Braden Levi Bowen, Associate in Arts; Brandy La Lynn Decorah, Welding Technology; Athena Rae Donald, Business Administration - Entrepreneur Emphasis; Daniel Forella, Associate in Science; Amanda Marie Gannon, Associate in Science; Tiffany Elizabeth Hart, Nursing; Jacob Lyda Hyslop, Manufacturing Production I; John Stanley Robert Jachna, University Studies; Kemuel Genus Kendrick, Mechatronics Technology; Emaleigh Tyler Lance, Surgical Technology; Zackery Aiden Lanning, Business Administration; Jacob Dylan Lusk-King, Nursing; Benjamin Craig Martin, Cisco Network Administrator; Lynda Diane Sanborn Norris, Accounting - Office Specialist; and Ryan Philip Rokosz, Associate in Arts

From Tamassee:

Logan Denver Alexander, Manufacturing Management and Leadership

From Walhalla:

Nathan Christopher Byron Ball, Surgical Technology, Associate in Science; Bryan Trey Blackwell, Media Arts Production; Clay Dalton Carmichael, Computer Technology - Software and Web Development Emphasis; William Garrett Fisher, CNC Programming and Operations; Anna Lynne Holbrooks, Associate in Arts; Gisselle Leon, Business Administration; Samantha Alyssee McLeroy, Practical Nursing; Sarah Anne Mcfarlin, Associate in Science; Avita Perez-Tedeschi, Business Administration; Anna Lee Smith, Associate in Science; and Carolina Vallejo-Ojeda, Associate in Arts

From West Union:

Macie Elizabeth Bryant, University Studies; Jamie Alexis Dean, Surgical Technology; Travis Jay Kreuzberger, Nursing; Brady Elizabeth Lusk, Associate in Science; Elizabeth Cheyenne Patterson, Business Administration; and Braden Gregory Tuten, Associate in Arts

From Westminster:

Nicholas Tyler Broome, Nursing; Mackenzie Leigh Burkett, Associate in Science; Madison Brooke Davis, Nursing; Cassandra Renee Jenkins, Associate in Science; and Jonathan Amir White, Media Arts Production

Pickens County

From Central:

Christopher Morales Arredondo, Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis; Jennifer Mary Bryant, Nursing; Tony L. Cordell, Business Administration - Management Emphasis; Carly Marie Gillespie, Nursing; Chase Owen Medlin, Mechatronics Technology; and Emmaline Ruth Terry, Business Administration

From Clemson:

Joshua Lee Fowler, Personal Care Aide; Bobby X. Garcia, Nursing; Breanna Jane Langley, Nursing; Katherine Pelfrey, Business Administration - Entrepreneur Emphasis; Camden Potter, Business Administration; and Trevor David Senn, Business Administration

From Easley:

Mikael Adams, Manufacturing Production I; Haley Bennefield, Child Care Management; Delaney Lynn Black, Associate in Arts; Trevor McKay Brady, Media Arts Production; Kinslee Alexus Byrd, Personal Care Aide; Jordan Mckenzie Chism, Business Administration; Morgan Taylor Coffield, Nursing; Christine Ann Corn, University Studies; Andrew Crittendon, Nursing; Barry Ezra Gardner, Manufacturing Production I; Weston Derrick Garner, Mechatronics Technology; Victoria Ann Gober, Associate in Arts; Reilly Gossett, Associate in Science; Grace Mckenna Houk, Associate in Arts; Calla Josephine Howard, Surgical Technology; Julia Grace Jaminet, Nursing; Breelyn Suzanne Johnson, Personal Care Aide; Presley Jordyn Johnson, Early Care and Education; Alexis Nicole King, Personal Care Aide; Brian Conner Lowery, Nursing; Justin Martel, Manufacturing Production I; Emily Grace Moore, University Studies; Karlyn Bae Moore, Associate in Arts; Elijah Grey Morrison, Nursing; Jesse Micah Perry, Technical Operators I; Chandler Wayne Pittman, Welding Technology; Christian Alejandro Rodriguez, Associate in Arts; Derek Andre Smith, Mechatronics Technology; Trent Sorenson, Associate in Arts; Jadelyn Megail Trimnal, Personal Care Aide; Amanda Allen Wiegand, Associate in Arts; Caroline Elizabeth Winegard, Surgical Technology; and Amber Rose Woods, Administrative Office Technology, Administrative Support

From Liberty:

Lucas Forbes Anderson, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Michelle Dione Kilmer, Nursing; Mason Allen Ladd, Welding Technology; Levi Douglas Lance, Manufacturing Management and Leadership; Gabriella Vianey Paz, Medical Assisting; and Kara Denise Roesch, Nursing

From Norris:

Cainan Elijah Howard, Manufacturing Management and Leadership

From Pickens:

Dawson Nathanelle Arflin, Welding Technology; Trinity Asher Ball, Associate in Arts; Melissa Billingsley, Criminal Justice Technology - Law Enforcement Operations Emphasis; Andrew Jacob Bozeman, Mechatronics Technology; Graeson K. Chappell, Business Administration - Operations Management Emphasis; Dennis Kyle Day, Industrial Electronics Technology; Logan Trent Edens, Media Arts Production; Dylan Jacob Gillis, Media Arts Production; Thomas Henry Gilstrap, Jr., Welding Technology; Gracie Michele Griffin, Surgical Technology, Associate in Science; Landon Daniel Hamilton, CNC Programming and Operations; Celeste Hensley, Nursing, Associate in Arts; Jacob Richard Oberstar, Mechatronics Technology; Cayden Matthew Pardi, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology; Rishawn D. Reese, Manufacturing Production I; Amanda Leigh Stokes, Office Support Specialist; James Ezekiel Tomlinson, Industrial Electronics Technology; and Emma Rosalee Wilson, Early Care and Education

From Six Mile:

Kaitlyn Grace Dunkley, Associate in Science; Steven Brent McKinney, Criminal Justice Technology - Law Enforcement Operations Emphasis; and Jordan Chase Tobon, Manufacturing Production I


From Abbeville:

Damiana Collins, Nursing

From Beaufort:

Anna Katherine Gallant, Child Care Management

From Cheraw:

Dakota Kayin Harsany, Surgical Technology

From Conway:

Luke Avery Long, Associate in Arts

From Fountain Inn:

Chandler J. Cannon, Associate in Science; and Kiara Sade Payton, Nursing

From Galivants Ferry:

Emily Bowles Bartlett, Associate in Science

From Greenville:

Kathryn Patricia Besancon, Nursing; Cynthia Sherita Boyd, Associate in Science; Stacy Jean Norman, University Studies; Briana Brown Ryans, Practical Nursing; and Piper Henley Stahlman, Technical Operators I

From Greer:

Timothy Odell Gault, Business Administration - Operations Management Emphasis

From Hartsville:

Natalie Rae Elsesser, Business Administration - Marketing Emphasis

From Lexington:

Malina Emily Cobb, Nursing

From Marietta:

Eden Jade Davis, Nursing

From Mooresville:

Colby Matthew Davoren, Associate in Science

From Rock Hill:

Chaslyne Renee' Axley, Associate in Science; and Nakeshia Natalia Pitters, University Studies

From Simpsonville:

Natasha Renee Houston, Associate in Science

From Taylors:

Justin Brady Bell, Nursing

From Winterville:

Karrington Marcotte, Nursing

Also graduating:

Brandon Todd Dillashaw, Computer Technology - Software and Web Development Emphasis

About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, business administration, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit tctc.edu.