Annual Stakeholder Dialogue April 29; topic is ‘corporate courage’

“Corporate Courage: Principled Action in the Face of Fear” is the topic for discussion at the University of St. Thomas’ 12th annual Stakeholder dialogue at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29, in Thornton Auditorium of Terrence Murphy Hall on the university’s campus in downtown Minneapolis, 1000 LaSalle Ave.

This year’s dialogue features speaker Peter Bruce, senior executive vice president of Northwestern Mutual, a leading life insurance company that since 1983 has ranked first in its category on Fortune magazine’s annual list of Most Admired Companies.

In the wake of Sept. 11 and the Enron scandal, many have questioned whether corporations can exhibit traits like courage. Bruce will provide a tough-minded and unconventional defense of a conscientious corporation in the face of cynics who might dismiss such sentiments as risky.

“Sept. 11 reinforced for many of us the reason Northwestern Mutual is in business to help people protect their financial security. It was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history, but brought forth perhaps our finest hours as a company,” Bruce said. Northwestern Mutual took a leadership role in the industry, responding to the tragedy in such a way as to do “the right thing,” not standing behind exclusions and legalities as it reviewed claims.

Bruce recalled the company’s reaction in a recent newsletter: “I felt proud that both the home office and the field had done their work well. … The commitment here in Milwaukee not to invoke the war exclusion, to dispense with the need for death certificates, to expedite claims, the volunteers who went to New York – [these] were the right things to do.”       

Giving their perspectives on Bruce’s remarks will be:

  • Dr. Peter Young, who is the E.W. Blanch Sr. Chair in Insurance at St. Thomas. Young heads the concentration in risk and insurance management within the university’s MBA program. He has written extensively on risk management, including a leading textbook, Risk Management and Insurance (McGraw-Hill, 1998).
  • Dr. Kenneth Goodpaster, who is the Koch Chair in Business Ethics at St. Thomas. A nationally known authority on business ethics, Goodpaster is the author of five books on the subject. He taught at the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Business School before joining the St. Thomas faculty.

Moderating the discussion will be Dr. Sally Power, associate professor of management at the St. Thomas College of Business.

The annual Stakeholder Dialogue focuses on various groups that have a stake in the business enterprise. Dialogues are designed to increase public understanding of issues, and to encourage ethical action by business organizations.

The dialogues sponsored by the Koch Chair in Business Ethics with collaboration from the Center for Ethical Business Cultures (formerly known as the Minnesota Center for Corporate Responsibility).

For more information, call (651) 962-4211 or visit the Stakeholder Dialogue Web site.