Center for Business Ethics

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 10:16 PM PDT


On June 3rd we held the launch for our Center for Business Ethics.  John Dienhart, the Frank Shrontz Endowed Chair in Business Ethics, is directing the center and taking the lead in organizing.  He has been ably assisted this year by his graduate student assistant, Aaron Hayden.  Faculty, staff, students, advisory board members, and other supporters gathered for the launch ceremony.

As a business school at a Jesuit, Catholic university, Albers has long placed an emphasis on business ethics, and in more recent decades, social responsibility, and in the last decade, sustainability.  Since the Albers School was founded in 1947, a concern for ethics and values has been part of our DNA and it has been part of the student experience for decades.

The overarching theme of the center will be the importance of creating an ethical business culture in organizations.  Key activities of the center will include assisting Albers faculty with integrating ethics and social responsibility into the classes they teach, as well as organizing workshops and conferences that bring together academics and practitioners to address ethical issues,

It has been a long journey to get to this point.  In 2002 we approached Frank Shrontz to support the Albers Business Ethics Initiative (ABEI).  Our message was that the endowment for the ethics chair only covered the salary of the chair holder, and if there were additional resources available to the chair, more could be accomplished.  In particular, we proposed a series of workshops and conferences on key ethical challenges that would be targeted to the business community.

Frank and his wife, Harriet, graciously agreed to support the ABEI and proposed a challenge grant – they would match contributions up to $60,000.  As a result, we were able to raise over $120,000 and that funding supported a series of workshops and conferences that well received and continued beyond the original three year time frame envisioned.

Creating a $1 million endowment for a new Center for Business Ethics was one of the priority projects for the Albers School in the 2003-2009 Seattle University capital campaign, “For the Difference We Make.”  We raised over $580,000 in the campaign, and that was enough to launch the center.  Since we did not meet our goal, we will continue to raise funds for this endowment.  The additional resources will allow the center to expand its activity and reputation.

It was great to have Frank Shrontz present at the ceremony.  Not only is he the namesake of our endowed chair in business ethics, but he also supported the ABEI and the center endowment.  More importantly, in his tenure as CEO of Boeing, he set the standard for ethics and integrity.  It was a blow to Boeing that his successors could not maintain that standard.  Fortunately for Boeing and all of us, more recent company leadership has looked to his example for inspiration on how to lead the company in the 21st century.  Others who were instrumental in the funding of the center were also present, including Martin and Maryann Simonetti, Gerry Swanson, and Mark Pinkowski.

This occasion is also a reminder of the great work of the development officers who have supported the Albers School over the years.  Annagreta Jacobson was instrumental in organizing the ABEI and Gail Yates was critical to the success of all the capital campaign projects for the Albers School, including the ethics center endowment.

The Center for Business Ethics is an exciting development in the Albers School.  It will give focus to things that have always been important to us – ethics, social responsibility, and values based education.