small school, big education - since 1973

Celebrating Class of 2022
Craig Winchell - Class of 1979

A 4th-generation Wacoan whose family founded Central Texas Iron Works and was devoted to the Waco community, Craig Winchell came to Vanguard in its second year and graduated as one of the valedictorians in Vanguard’s Class of 1979.
In 1983, he graduated magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Applied Mathematics. He went on to Harvard Business School and received his MBA. He spent a number of years at McKinsey & Co., a leading management consulting firm, solving strategic problems for large companies in the US and Europe. Over the course of his business career, he has held senior Strategy positions at Arthur Andersen, Centex and EDS/HP, and also pursued entrepreneurial ventures including creating an award-winning board game: Conscience, the fun way to learn right from wrong.
In 2017, he returned to his engineering and math roots to pursue a boyhood passion to become a teacher, becoming a middle school Pre-Engineering teacher at Myers Middle School in Denton, and in 2018 was voted Most Influential Teacher by the 8th-grade class. He has just completed his 2nd year teaching Pre-Engineering at Midway Middle School in Hewitt.
Craig and his wife Celia have been married for 29 years and have two children. Their daughter Britain and husband Dakota Klein are 2020 Texas A&M graduates and live in Austin, and their son Barrett will graduate from A&M in December.

Graduation Address to the Class of 2022 - By Craig Winchell

Thank you Grace for the terrific introduction! I’d like to say how happy I am to be here! It feels like only yesterday I was in your position, filled with excitement and anticipation, and ready to celebrate the accomplishment of graduating. Completing one chapter successfully, and getting set to start a new, more independent next chapter. This is a joyous moment! I’d like to thank your Class President, Alex Dietz, for asking me to share a few words of wisdom; and I’d like to congratulate each of you (and your families, and your teachers) on this special day.

I’d like to start by thanking Vanguard for how it helped shape me. I have fond memories of the packet system, the freedom of the “free mod”, and the Senior Lounge, but what I really learned from Vanguard was 3 things: 1) self-motivation, 2) critical thinking, and 3) the confidence to do my best in everything I do. While Vanguard has grown and methodologies have no doubt matured as well, I hope your key takeaways from your time at Vanguard are the same as mine. You see, where you’re headed is no doubt competitive, and Lord knows no one is going to do the work for you, so the talents to motivate yourself, really think critically, and do your best in everything you do will be put to the test. Little did I know when I sat in your place, I would finish SMU, earn a Harvard MBA, work at the highest levels of industry, and now be a middle school pre-engineering teacher. You can’t know your future with certainty, but wherever your journey takes you, trust in the focus and work ethic you honed at Vanguard to carry you far.

I’d like to share with you something I learned in my first major training at McKinsey & Co., and it’s something I wish I’d learned even sooner, and that’s the value of thinking, structuring and speaking in 3’s.

I learned “The Pyramid Principle” from Barbara Minto, author of the best-selling book of the same name. She led us through multiple practice sessions to help us learn and engrain the best way to think, structure and communicate. She stressed research has proven that 3 things (not 2, not 4) are the easiest number of things for an audience (and speaker) to remember, and 3’s should therefore form the foundation of every speech or argument. You should determine your main point or premise and then support it with 3 reasons, and each of those 3 reasons should have 3 pieces of support so your argument takes the shape of a pyramid. She stressed your argument should have “no gaps, and no overlaps”, so if your thinking is sound, your points will flow smoothly. Whether your presentation is organized as “you should do X, and here are the 3 reasons why”, or structured more as a story with “a situation, complication and resolution” (another 3), visualizing and communicating your message as a pyramid with support underneath is the key.

To illustrate, let’s say you were asked to write a paper on why Abraham Lincoln is the best US president ever. Based on the Pyramid Principle, your argument might focus on: 1) his leading and holding the country together through the Civil War, 2) signing the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery, and 3) showing a man born of humble beginnings could achieve great things.

And once you have your 3, don’t be afraid to add adjectives. I learned to “add adjectives” at HBS when 2 of my best buddies today and I were challenged in a management communications class to highlight Wilmington, DE as a great city to locate a company. If you’ve ever been to Wilmington, it’s truly a bit of an armpit, but I’ll never forget, my buddy Dean started the introduction with the words “Nestled comfortably in the Northeast corridor, Wilmington, DE is a terrific place to work, live and raise a family.” I almost spit out my coffee at the flowery language, but Dean’s reply stuck with me. He said “I use this language all the time, our teacher loves this stuff and I make an E (the highest grade at HBS) every time.” The lesson for me was “it’s great to have the logic and structure behind you, but you need to know your audience and “sell your message”.  Throughout my career, in the midst of making really good friends, I picked up nuggets of knowledge, and I hope you’ll make just as good of friends as I have and glean wisdom along your journey.

If you look for them, you’ll spot “3’s” everywhere. Why do you think the Declaration of Independence speaks of the inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”? Or the framers of our Constitution established 3 branches of government (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) with checks and balances to uphold the Constitution? Or 1st Corinthians 13 says “these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” We remember and there is strength in 3’s.

So what I’d like to do for the remainder of my time is relate 3 more “3’s” I hope you will remember and take to heart. 

  1. Listen, Learn, Lead. General Stanley McChrystal summarizes the essence of military leadership with this mantra in an exceptional TED talk. Listen, Learn and then Lead. You have to really listen in order to learn, and you have to really learn in order to be an exceptional leader. And as you listen, listen for the facts, the logic, the assertions, take written notes, and understand the key points (pros and cons) on both sides of debates.
  2. Stay On-Task. As a teacher, I talk to my students a lot about staying on-task. My definition of on-task has 3 elements: 1) know what you need to do, 2) know when you need to get it done, and 3) get it done, on-time, with a smile on your face. I call this being a Happy Warrior, a person who is undaunted by obstacles and leans into challenges.
  3. Find your passion, Set high goals and Be exceptional. College is a terrific time to find your passion and set high goals for yourself. Once you have a goal in sight, building the skill and bringing the will, the “Want to”, and removing “I can’t” from your vocabulary are keys to long-term success. Whatever you choose, whatever you do, do everything you can to do it well.

I’d also like to share a simple equation:

IQ + EQ – “Book Smarts” + “People Smarts” – the most successful people are both. Everyone is familiar with IQ, but the secret lies in combining book smarts and Emotional Intelligence, being intuitive, reading situations, and truly being people smart. I was one of the most IQ-focused kids when I was at Vanguard, but knowing what I know now, I can’t overemphasize the importance of being people smart as well. I maintain close friendships from Vanguard, SMU, Harvard, and the business world from shared conversations and experiences where we really got to know each other on a personal level. Whether one-on-one or in teams, people smarts and leadership are forged through deep connections, and I hope you build a slew of those relationships in your lifetime. And FYI, people hire and work with people they like, so be likable, responsive, and approachable.

And finally, seek always to be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t let others define you, rather incorporate the best aspects of the people you meet into your makeup, think for yourself and be genuine, and grow in your own confidence. Be the best You you can be! And lastly, please remember your family! You’ll be really busy once you get to school, but just know they really love signs of life and updates!

So guess how many takeaways I have for you as you go out into the world? Of course, 3: 1) think, structure and communicate in 3’s, 2) be a Happy Warrior, and 3) be well-rounded (book smart, people smart, and a really good listener).

Congratulations again on your graduation! Celebrate this day, and best of luck in the future.


Homecoming Game – October 14th, 2022
Alumni Tennis Reunion – October 15, 2022
Athletic Hall of Fame Induction- October 15th, 2022
The Vanguard Parent Crew – Dr. Kent Starr Golf Tournament – October 24th, 2022
Fall Alumni Get Together – November 30th, 2022
Alumni Basketball Game – Spring 2023