Pepper touts service as ‘North Star’

By getting involved in the community, individuals as well as companies can pursue their own self-interest while helping others, John E. Pepper Jr. ’60 told a Dwight Chapel audience Wednesday.

In a lecture titled “Doing Good While Doing Well,” the former Yale Corporation senior fellow and current chairman of the Walt Disney Company espoused his view of service as duty and talked about how he came to view service to others as a “moral imperative” — his “North Star.”

Walt Disney Company Chairman John E. Pepper ’60 speaks in Dwight Chapel yesterday about the intersection of service and self-interest.
Margaret Katcher
Walt Disney Company Chairman John E. Pepper ’60 speaks in Dwight Chapel yesterday about the intersection of service and self-interest.

The 2008 Dwight Hall Curran Distinguished Mentor, Pepper was on the Yale campus Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with members of the various Dwight Hall organizations in an advisory capacity.

An executive board member of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, former Proctor & Gamble CEO Pepper described what he views as the most valuable form of service: mentoring.

“At Proctor & Gamble, we used to say, ‘Are you willing to give one hour a week to change a life forever?’ ” he said.

Pepper showed a video of a mentor and his adopted student from the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative as an example of how mentoring can “truly make a difference in someone’s life.”

Pepper served as the vice president for finance and administration at Yale from January 2004 to December 2005 after leaving Proctor & Gamble and stepping down as senior fellow of the Yale Corporation.

During Pepper’s tenure as CEO, Proctor & Gamble invested heavily in building schools in rural China and provided pro bono water-treatment facilities in many locations around the world.

“We had a responsibility to the world around us, as well as to our shareholders,” he said.

Robert Li ’10, who attended yesterday’s talk, said he witnessed the effects of the company’s work firsthand.

“When I was growing up in China, I saw the great work his company did for people,” he said.

Pepper, who said he was uninvolved with Dwight Hall when he was at Yale, began working with service projects while at Proctor & Gamble.

“My supervisor told me to go and collect money for the United Way,” he said. “Proctor & Gamble encouraged the idea of helping others in the process of running a business.”

Bradford Williams ’10, the financial coordinator of Dwight Hall, said he appreciated Pepper’s speech, which he hopes will help combat the misconception that there is a tradeoff between service and success.

“Unfortunately, the message of doing good while doing well isn’t well known enough,” he said.

Dr. Deborah Rose ’72 GRD ’89, chair of the Dwight Hall Board of Directors, said Pepper was an ideal figure to serve as the Curran Distinguished Mentor, as both a professional and humanitarian leader.

“The [Distinguished Mentor] program is meant to bring in leaders who embody Dwight Hall’s mission,” she said. “John was an obvious choice, and his help at Dwight Hall over the past two days is exactly why.”

Past Distinguished Mentors include former Mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke ’71 and Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke ’71.

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