Marywood University: Teaching Business as a Force for Good

Starred Thoughts from the 13th Annual Conference on Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2015 All rights reserved
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Rosalynn Carter

On March 23rd our Face of America Journey took us to IMG_0702 Con LogoMarywood University for the 13th Annual Conference on Ethics, Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility. The theme of the conference was Business as a Force for Good. As always, the setting was pleasant. The participants were friendly, and the presenters provided a treasure trove of information about the ways business can make our communities and our world a better place for everyone.

The featured speakers included Lauren Walters, Co-Founder and CEO of 2 Degrees Food, James Brogna, Assistant Vice President Advancement, Allied Services Integrated Health System, Joyce Fasula, CEO, and Joseph Fasula, Vice President, of Gerrity’s Supermarkets.

Student participants included Grace Morrissey, Ellen Clauss, Meryl Fioriti, Jin Tan and Caroline Andrews. They are members of the Marywood University Ethics Business Case Competition Team. Matthew Parkyn, Vice President of Net Impact, International Organization of Students for Responsible Business, Marywood Chapter, made a presentation about making responsible judgments.

Three members of the Marywood University faculty, Dr. Arthur Comstock, Sister John Michele, and Dr. Sarah Kenehan participated in a panel discussion with keynote speaker Lauren Walters. Another member of the faculty, Dr. Rex Dumdum, moderated the panel discussion. It was my privilege to work with Rex during the panel discussion.

The conference was organized by Dr. Murray Pyle and his wife Ellen Sherwood. They had help from members of the Marywood community.

Magic Moments

“Do the Right Thing”

Jim Brogna is a personable young man and an enthusiastic speaker. He was a perfect fit for his topic, Creating Corporate Citizenship by Developing Individual Values.

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Twice during his presentation, he used large posters to reinforce his main theme. He told the audience it takes time to build character. In today’s social media world, however, it takes but a few minutes to destroy a reputation. To emphasize this point, he used a picture of Brian Williams, NBC News anchor, inscribed with this quotation from Matthew Josephson:

When credibility is important (and it’s always important). There are no little lies.

To effectively illustrate the definition and nature of business ethics, he used a popular illustration which appearedIMG_0330_ JB2 BW in an article written by Gloria Lewis, a professional staffing expert. It was posted in her blog on May 15, 2013.

Jim wanted to make the point that people in business have an obligation to know the difference between right and wrong, and when faced with decisions, difficult or easy as they may be, they must do the right thing for the right reason.

This important message resonated with everyone in the room.

“A Case Study and Its Challenges”

Shortly after 1 p.m., a group of students stood next to Dr. IMG_0346_stidents1Murray Pyle when he introduced their topic: Technology and Privacy: A Responsible Corporate Model of Maintaining Individual Privacy in a Data Rich World.

As I looked through the viewfinder of my camera to focus their picture, I thought to myself this is similar to a number of scenes Kitch and I observed during our experience in the corporate world. Then and now, the individuals were dressed for success. They were enthusiastic about their discoveries and realistic about their challenges. They had developed an interesting product, and they were anxious to share what they had learned.

This classic example of student-centeredness sheds light on what is happening at Marywood University in the School of Business. Earlier in the day, Sister Cathy Luxner made this important point, “The privilege of education means IMG_0346_stidents2
we have a responsibility to use what we learn for the common good.”

Each of the students who explained the “Future of Fourcircle” was disciplined, earnest and receptive to feedback.

An “Ah Ha” moment for the students happened during the Q&A session when Dr. Rex Dumdum called upon his life experience and deep insights to point out how the marketing of the product and the student presentation could be refined to address important issues of privacy. During Dr. Dumdum’s conversation with the students, the words of Robert Frost came to mind: I am not a teacher, but an awakener.

Two days after their presentation at the conference, the Marywood University Ethics Team won the 2015 DeSales University Fleming Ethics Bowl Competition.

“Making Judgments”

Matthew Parkyn is a senior in the School of Business and Global Innovation. Like most college students he wants to be IMG_0386_ Matthewhappy and successful in life. High on his bucket list is a desire to travel the world. He also wants to make his mother’s life more comfortable.

In the conversations Kitch and I have had with Matthew, he has substantiated the insightful words of Alice Wellington Rollins:

The task of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask of his students that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.

During his presentation, Matthew shared the meanings of several words including judge, judgment, judgmental, opinion and service.

He identified his sources, and he provided a variety of definitions and grammatical applications of the words. He also introduced the normative and subjective process.

To summarize the point he was trying to make, he offered a famous quote from Walt Whitman:

Be curious not judgmental.

A conversation with Dr. Gale Jaeger, the woman who created the ethics conference at Marywood in 2002 when she was a member of the faculty, helped Matthew develop a broader perspective of his topic and his definition. Dr. Jaeger’s question and her conversation with Matthew gave meaning to Robert Hutchins definition of educaton:

It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight, if possible.

“An Hour with Mom and Her Son”

Joyce Fasula is the CEO of Gerrity’s Supermarkets. She IMG_0395_Mom 1is better known as “Mom” to her customers. Her son Joseph is the Vice President of the corporation. On this day, they became teachers. Equipped with an effective PowerPoint presentation that included priceless archival photographs, they told their story of Gerrity’s interpretation of Corporate Social Responsibility.

They believe that ethics has made their stores profitable. They made the case that making a profit is not unethical. It’s how you make and spend the profit that answers the ethics question.

Their philosophy is very straightforward. To the owners ofIMG_0400_mom 2 the company, the employees are most important. To the employees of the company, the customers are most important. For Mom and her son this creates a win-win situation.

Fasula told the audience:


We give our customers the benefit of the doubt, and we give our community a substantial part of our profit. We celebrate being fair and honest. We buy local. We negotiate with our suppliers in good faith. We support local charities and we embrace environmentally sound practices.

For the executives of Gerrity’s, the most ethical use of profit involves:
1. Providing for your family;
2. Reinvesting in your business;
3. Providing goods and services;
4. Providing jobs and opportunities.

“Ripples and Dots”

To set the tone for his keynote address, Lauren Walters selected quotations from President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address:
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“Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country.”

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Lauren Walters was nine-years-old when he heard those magical words. They made an indelible mark on his heart and his soul. More than half a century later, he is applying them in a compassionate and caring way.

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He is the cofounder and CEO of 2 Degrees Food. His goal is to reduce hunger and malnutrition. His company produces healthy snack bars. For every bar sold, the company provides a packaged healthy meal to a hungry child. The concept is modeled after Tom’s Shoes…Buy one. Give one.

He personifies the purpose and spirit of ethics and corporate social responsibility.

He is a leader with a conscience, and a man who has successfully navigated what some have called the most difficult journey in life, the challenging 18 inch journey from the head to the heart.

During his speech, he connected the dots and the ripples, and he answered the fundamental question, “Why.”
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He did not sugar coat his story. He freely admitted that what he is doing is hard.

He needed to collaborate with others to come up with a name, a product, a package, a story and a strategy.

To effectively do this he enlisted the support of people who were experts in each area, and he hired social media experts for marketing.

2Degrees Health is a for-profit company, but it partners with non-profit companies.

The product can be purchased in 2500 stores and it is available on 500 college campuses. It has provided 2 million meals for malnourished children in the U.S., Columbia, Kenya, India, Malawi, Myanmar and Somalia, but Walters has not yet reached his goal.


These are some of the challenges he and his team face:

It’s not easy to raise money;

Distribution is complicated;

Conveying the social halo while making the consumer happy and positive about helping other people is a necessity;

Creating a movement of enthusiastic supporters;

Developing products that are healthy and good for people;

Pricing and connecting with non-profits.

Lauren Walters describes himself as a optimistic person… a man with a glass half full attitude.
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The best words I can find to accurately describe Lauren Walters were written by President Kennedy:

A man does what he must in spite of personal consequences, in spite of dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human mortality.

In my opinion, Lauren Walters is a classic face of America and a radiant example of America at its best. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet him and learn from him and his example.

“Dinner for 40”

One of the highlights of the annual ethics conference is the dinner for participants. It provides everyone who participates in the program an opportunity to relax and enjoy a delicious IMG_0508_dinnermeal. Equally important is the comfortable family atmosphere.

There were eight place settings at each table. Throughout the room, one could hear the quiet sounds of polite conversation occasionally interrupted by joyful sounds of laughter. Everyone needed a break from the fact-filled, intellectually stimulating sessions.

At our table we talked about books, family, connections and students. At one point, Robert Jaeger used his smart phone to obtain a list of books written by an author Sr. John Michele recommended to Kitch.

As one might expect, most of the talking stopped when the food arrived. The presentation of the food was very appealing and everything on the plate was delicious.
The Food Service staff at Marywood University is top shelf.

“Up Close and Personal”

The final event of the conference was a panel discussion. Designed to enable experts and practitioners to share their thoughts in a relaxed and comfortable setting, Dr. Rex DumdumIMG_0562_panel 3 moderated the discussion, and I was given an opportunity to help him.

Together we decided to ask questions that would enable Lauren Walters, Sister John Michele, Dr. Art Comstock, and Dr. Sarah Kenehan to share information and personal experiences that would help the students better understand the rules of the game of life and business.

This is a summary of the starred thoughts from the panel discussion:

1. Live family first;
2. If you are not helping other people, you will not be happy;
3. You have to be passionate about what you do. If not, you have to move on;
4. Good people make good decisions;
IMG_0588-001_panel45. Happiness is an outlook;
6. You can learn more from failure, because it opens your eyes and it creates learning opportunities;
7. Failure does not have to be suffered in silence and alone. It is an opportunity to share frustration and anger. Connections enable a person who has failed to reach out for help;
8. Failure is necessary to growth;
9. Do your best. Be persistent. Move on;
10. There will always be tension in life between what you’re passionate about and making a living. You need to find the balance.

In response to a question about skills needed to be happy and successful in life, the panel members provided thisa Question list:

1. Patience
2. Grit
3. Compassion
4. Integrity
5. Intelligence
6. Energy
7. Initiative
8. Persistence
9. Be gentle
10. Wisdom

When a student asked a question about cheating and the pressures that lead to cheating, three panel members offered this advice:

You only get one reputation. It’s like fine china, expensive but easily broken. Dr. Comstock

If you owned a company, would you hire someone who lied and cheated? Sister John Michele

How would you judge yourself? Lauren Walters.

The panel discussion ended with this question: What word would you like to engrave of the heart of every student in this room?

The responses were heartfelt and poignant:
aa final panelIMG_0599
Compassion, Dr. Sarah Kenehan;
Integrity, Dr. Art Comstock;
Connection, Lauren Walters;
Be kind, Sister John Michele;
Love, Dr. Rex Dumdum;
Care, Dr. Murray Pyle;
Acceptance, Dr. Gale Jaeger;

After the panel discussion, people assembled in little clusters to talk about a number of things. It was a beautiful scene. It validated the purpose of the conference and the words of one of America’s greatest minds. To rephrase the priceless words of Albert Einstein, The 13th Annual Ethics Conference at Marywood University was an opportunity for everyone in attendance to learn how to become a person of value and to better understand business as a force for good.

Thank you, Marywood University.
Thank you, Gale Jaeger.
Thank you, Murray Pyle.
Thank you, Ellen Sherwood.
Thank you, Jim Brogna.
Thank you, Grace Morrissey, Ellen Clauss, Meryl Fioriti, Jin Tan and Caroline Andrews.
Thank you, Matthew Parkyn.
Thank you, Joyce and Joe Fasula.
Thank you, Lauren Walters.
Thank you Rex, Art, Sarah and Sister John Michele.

Kitch and I look forward to our reunion in 2016.

(Digital photographs by Kitch and Tony Mussari)
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