Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was one of several guests who came to support their former classmate Edward Liddy, named CEO of the year by the Business School at the Four Seasons hotel Wednesday.
Liddy, who received his M.B.A. from GW in 1972, heads up the Allstate Corporation, an insurance company. University staff and current students also came to the 250-person afternoon luncheon. Powell, a 1971 Business School graduate, did not speak to the audience.
“The genuine affection that GW has of this distinguished alumni makes us all proud to be associated with this alma mater,” said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who introduced Liddy.
Liddy was selected for the award by a Business School alumni committee, which evaluated the CEO’s leadership, success, services to the community, commitment to furthering education and dedication to upholding ethics in the business world.
“(Liddy) heads an impressive company that has seen success and weathered some major changes,” said Susan Phillips, dean of the Business School. “The company has reinvented itself and maintained its ethical moorings.”
In his acceptance speech, Liddy thanked the “great GW professors” who set him on his successful career. He also lauded Trachtenberg for enacting positive changes at GW.
“It’s a unique connection when receiving (the award) from you alma mater,” Liddy said.
Throughout his speech, Liddy gave insight on how to deal with change in a company and how to lead a successful business, starting with the important elements of “people, capital and information.”
In a question-and-answer session, Liddy said there should be a more effective private-public partnership during catastrophic events, mentioning specifically the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Florida hurricanes of last fall.
The overarching theme of the afternoon was the importance of business ethics.
“Ethics get to the culture of the company,” Liddy said. “I can’t emphasis ethics enough. A company can not fail in that regard.”
Liddy and Phillips agreed that teaching ethics is not easy. “You can’t teach it, but you can hope to teach to be sensible to ethical issues,” Liddy said.
“In the business school we try to focus on examples of people who are successful at it,” Phillips said. “Right is a big word and is not that easy.”