While Mormons are often associated with polygamy and Utah, a contingent of prominent Mormon businessmen congregated at Yale on Wednesday to speak about how the religion’s fundamental values have played into their success.
A packed audience from Yale and the greater New England area gathered to hear a panel titled “The Mormon Way of Doing Business,” a forum of successful CEOs who spoke about the challenges associated with running large businesses while maintaining allegiances to their “family and faith.” While some Yale students said they found the message of the panel inspirational, others were upset about the choice of Glenn Beck, a national radio and TV host, as the moderator.
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The speakers included David Checketts, former CEO of Madison Square Garden; Rod Hawes, founder and former CEO of Life Re Corporation; David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue Airways; and Jim Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche.
The speaker list was based on the 2007 book “The Mormon Way of Doing Business,” which includes entries about each of the guests. Jeff Benedict, the Mormon author who penned the book, opened the event with a speech that covered the importance of finding faith in daily life.
The panelists followed suit, noting the necessity of balanceing life, business, family and the church.
Checketts identified a strong reliance on faith as an essential element to becoming a CEO.
“If you lack wisdom, ask God,” he said. “Even in our day God speaks to man. He speaks to me.”
Others, like Quigley, spoke about integrating rather than balancing the various factors of his life.
“Instead of worrying about working towards work, life and church as a competition where there are winners and losers, I replaced that with work-life integration,” Quigley said. “Instead of comprising Church for work, I believe I am successful because I go to Church.”
As a Mormon, each man said that though family can complicate business, it is important to remember that family comes first. After the deaths of two people close to him, Hawes, the only convert to Mormonism among the panelists, came to what he said was his greatest realization in business.
“The most important thing in life is family,” he said. “When you leave this Earth it doesn’t matter how many Goldman Sachs awards you have. Family is the only thing that matters.”
Neeleman also acknowledged “Mormon’s bad name,” calling the religion “the most misunderstood organization on the planet.”
But most of the negative attention drawn to the event was directed at Beck, the non-Mormon moderator. Ali Frick ’07 said she confused by Beck’s presence on Yale’s campus given his controversial opinions, which are often deemed insensitive.
“I was surprised to see him invited here to serve in a moderating position when ‘moderate’ is about the last thing Glenn Beck is,” Frick said. “I assume there are hundreds more positive influences in the Mormon community than a man who questions whether lesbians are really women and said Barack Obama may as well be white.”
Beck, in an interview with Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to serve in the US House, had asked Ellison to “prove … that you are not working with our enemies,” according to an MSNBC account of the show.
Despite the reaction to Beck, other students identified with the pious messages about family and faith offered by the panelists.
“You don’t have to be a Mormon to appreciate that all of them were better and more successful people for identifying with something bigger than themselves that they really believed in, which is a powerful message no matter who you are,” Ben Lazarus ’10 said.
The event was sponsored by the Yale J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the Yale Latter-Day Saints Student Association.