John Pepper is the former CEO and chairman of Proctor & Gamble, former chairman of the Board of The Walt Disney Corp., and former CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. He was also a history major.
Here is a taste:
I’m often asked: “Can a history major be of any value in business?” My answer has always been the same: “I can’t imagine any course of study being more valuable.”
For over 40 years, I dedicated myself to building successful business operations in our region and around the world as CEO and chairman of Procter & Gamble, chairman of the board of The Walt Disney Co., and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This work was built on a firm foundation: a liberal arts undergraduate education and a history major.
I recently learned that Wright State University plans to terminate up to 113 faculty positions, including as many as 49 positions in the College of Liberal Arts, by far the most in any college. It seems the university and the region have arrived at in inflection point in their connected histories. In what follows I share perspectives as a history major and business executive in hopes that my friends in Raider Country will find them useful as they make consequential decisions concerning the institution’s future.
I entered college thinking I would probably major in math or the sciences. My freshman year convinced me otherwise. I took a course on the history of the American West, nicknamed “Cowboys and Indians.” Even more important than its fascinating subject matter was that the course was taught by a history professor who introduced me to the complexities and continuities of the past, and the sobering and often inspirational lessons history teaches, particularly through the lives of individuals, the choices they made, the values they embodied, the risks they took, the challenges they sometimes overcame — all of this making it clear that progress is possible but not inevitable.
Paraphrasing former Yale President and MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti, I love history because I have come to see that without a knowledge of the past — its realities and causative relationships –— we cannot hope to construct an action agenda able to lead us to a better future.
History teaches that individuals make things happen, and that achieving big wins requires wisdom, good judgment, courage and persistence. History teaches that when faced with evil, good people must stand up for the good, otherwise we’re going to be in trouble.
The study of history helped me develop a deep respect for different societies and cultures. This recognition fired my determination at Procter & Gamble to respect regional and national differences as the company operated globally.
Read the rest here.