Just 12 short years ago, Aaron Montz sat in the audience at Opening Convocation, a new student full of really big dreams.
On Thursday, Montz ’08 was back on campus (as he frequently is) to give the Convocation address – as Tiffin’s mayor.
At age 30, he’s in his second term, having won re-election with an 85 percent margin of victory last fall. During Montz’s time in office, this distinguished young alumni has led his hometown through an unprecedented economic resurgence.
Through all of his success, Montz is quick to remember the influence Heidelberg has had on his political career and in particular, the impact of one professor who refused to accept mediocrity.
Montz’s political journey when he was 5. Newscasts and talk radio were the norm in his home. Military and political strategy, not cartoons, fascinated him. His first foray into politics came as a high school senior. He campaigned hard against the incumbent Tiffin mayor and earned a surprising 40 percent of the vote. As a ‘Berg sophomore in 2005, he threw his hat in the ring for City Council – one of four candidates for three seats. He lost by 10 votes.
The difference: This time, Montz got complacent and overconfident and didn’t campaign at all.
“2005 was the most important year in my life,” he told the students. “It was the worst best year.”
Mired in the bitterness of that loss, his grades suffered. His big dreams seemed derailed. That’s when he met political science professor Dr. Marc O’Reilly.
“Marc saw my untapped potential and he pushed me really hard,” Montz said. It was, at times, an acrimonious relationship, but exactly what he needed at the time. “He got me to believe in myself again.”
Montz told the new students that they should look for those kinds of connections on campus. “All of the professors are great, but there will be that one faculty member that stands out for you. … Heidelberg is unique because the faculty and staff view you for who you are. … you become part of a family.”
He encouraged students to “never let yourself slip into complacency” and instead use the next four years at Heidelberg to pursue dreams and passions.
“When you discover what you’re passionate about in life, never lay off the throttle. Continue to drive toward success.”
Known to be highly active on social media, Montz asked everyone to take out their cell phones and download a City of Tiffin app for discounts around town. The loudest applause came when Montz was credited with bringing a Chipotle to Tiffin. It’s scheduled to open in a few months.