Northwestern University
Dean Blount's Blog


Cultivating Courage
March 16, 2011

I was in New York City last week, where I met with many Kellogg alumni and friends. We hosted our annual Kellogg IMPACT event that featured alumnus Pete Peterson ’47, former Secretary of Commerce, co-founder of the Blackstone Group and chairman of the
Peter G. Peterson Foundation. I also had the chance to catch up with Judy Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program.


Pete Peterson voices values that are critical to the long-term well-being of our national and global economies.

Photography by Jeff Weiner

Voices for Change

Both Pete and Judy, in different ways, are important public voices calling for broad-scale institutional change. Pete presents compelling data about the critical state of our public finances and what it will take to right the U.S. economy. Judy works with business leaders and business schools to examine the limitations of the shareholder value model. While both of their messages are sobering, as people they are energizing and inspiring. Their perspectives bravely voice values that are critical to the long-term well-being of our national and global economies.

While in New York, I also visited NYU, where the Stern School held a reception to celebrate the unveiling of my portrait as a former dean of the college. Seeing a portrait of myself was a very strange, even surreal, experience—even more so as I visualized how it would soon hang in the hallway alongside my male predecessors. The legacy of being the first female dean at two business schools at two universities that I deeply admire became very concrete for the first time.

The Nature of Courage

As I headed back to Chicago on Saturday I reflected on the nature of courage and how it typifies what Pete and Judy do. I also reflected on my own career and how becoming a dean, with few direct role models to draw from, had shaped me. And I realized that many times it had forced me to dig deep inside and find a level of courage that I never knew I had.

Yet I also realized that now, having found that courage, it is not one of those things that stays put. It has to be found again and again—each time I get in front of an audience and take a strong stand, each time I make a tough decision, each time I go home at night wondering if I took too much risk in saying what I said. It pushes me to think hard about how we at Kellogg can create a culture for our students that makes finding and holding on to courage easier—that makes it easier for each one to learn how to identify and live in a place of personal conviction.

Equipping leaders with courage matters. Not only is it critical to building business organizations with integrity, it is also critical because the 21st century will need business leaders who will not turn their backs—leaders who will boldly confront unprecedented levels of social and economic inequity, complexity and uncertainty. Cultivating courage among our students is a mission that we at business schools must take on.

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