Oregon Ethics in Business Awards Ceremony
June 13, 2012Good evening. I am very pleased to be here tonight on behalf of Willamette University and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management to share with you this important moment of recognition and celebration.
As I am sure you’ll agree, individuals in positions of leadership have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of leaders to practice ethical and moral courage in all they undertake. Or, to paraphrase Will Rogers, we should live life in such a way that we wouldn’t hesitate to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
Jane Addams, an American whose humanitarian and feminist endeavors earned her worldwide recognition, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, was emblematic of the difference that a single individual can make in fostering an ethical and just society. In her 1903 address to Chicago’s Union League Club, she said:
“What is a great man who has made his mark upon history? Every time, if we think far enough, he is a man who has looked through the confusion of the moment and has seen the moral issue involved; he is a man who has refused to have his sense of justice distorted; he has listened to his conscience until conscience becomes a trumpet call to like-minded men, so that they gather about him, and together, with mutual purpose and mutual aid, they make a new period in history.”
And it is in that same spirit that we gather to celebrate this evening.
As you may know, the Oregon Ethics in Business Awards program was created in 2002 to accomplish two things: To find meaningful ways to recognize and reward individuals and organizations in our community who have demonstrated moral courage through their exemplary ethical business practices, and also to create for our MBA students a meaningful, rigorous and high-quality experiential learning opportunity that exposes them to real-world ethical quandaries and issues and connects them personally with the business leaders who resolved them.
Here’s how it works: After the nominees for the Oregon Ethics in Business Awards are established, teams of MBA students are assigned to each.
These students interview and research the companies’ leaders, get to know them, hear their stories, learn how they think and work; what ethical challenges they faced and how they addressed them.
It is a very powerful lesson. Some of our students have indicated that they consider the Oregon Ethics in Business research project to be the high point of their first year at Atkinson.
Conversely, the nominees that our students study have conveyed to us their surprised pleasure in finding themselves both in the spotlight and under the microscope. They praise the professionalism of our first-year MBA students - how challenging the level of their inquiry. They even admit that they did not realize how stimulating and positive such intense scrutiny could be.
This program recognizes that we must be ever vigilant and continually work together to inspire and motivate, rewarding and recognizing ethical courage and leadership.
The Atkinson School has always prided itself in creating entrepreneurs in the world – individuals who are prepared to live with change and capable of effecting change – especially leaders who challenged outmoded worldviews and demanded new definitions of commerce, service, and community.
We lend to this state and the nation each year citizens awakened to the powerful lessons of human history, enlightened managers trained to shape and give order to human experience, entrepreneurs prepared to create those products and services that enhance our lives and our world.
A Willamette MBA demands that our graduates use the experiences they have as students to nurture a more creative and civic-minded impulse, one that would lead in the face of change and act responsibly in an increasingly complex, faster changing world.
The individuals and organizations whose achievements we honor tonight serve as an excellent reminder that we are capable of rebuilding our world to conform to the highest standards, instilling in the culture of business our creativity and passion for excellence.Many thanks to Professor Larry Ettner and Dean Ringold at the Atkinson School, as well as our founding partners at the Business Journal and the Rotary Club of Portland for the effort and resources they have dedicated collectively to this worthy endeavor. I also thank the MBA students for their research and analysis; and of course, my most sincere congratulations to tonight’s honorees.