The Right Thing to Do

February 25, 2013

Dawn and Richard Rawson recently gifted $1 million to The Bauer Excellence Scholarship Endowment, which supports The Bauer Excellence Initiative. The funds go into an endowment which has been established to help us recruit talented students and help them graduate on time and without debt. To honor Dawn and Richard, Room 160 in Melcher Hall has been named the Dawn and Richard Rawson Auditorium.  And with the naming we honor everything that the Rawson name stands for.

Click here to see more images from the Dawn and Richard Rawson Auditorium dedication.

The Rawson story is a tale of hard work, and dedication, and with several sub-chapters that speak to the essence of what the Bauer brand is all about. It was in the late sixties/early seventies that a young man from San Antonio was here in the business school, the College of Business Administration (CBA), as it was then called, taking classes mostly at night, working more than 20 hours a week as an accountant, and working hard to graduate on time and with good grades.  He graduated in 1972 with a BBA in Finance and his professional career worked its way through interesting and challenging assignments. He worked as a Senior Financial Officer, then as Controller for several companies in the manufacturing and seismic data processing industries.  In 1989 he was invited to serve as Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of a company known as Administaff, which had been founded in Houston in 1986.  Of course as we all know, titles and careers go and life happens, and life did happen for this young man — a lovely young bride, and two beautiful daughters, completed the picture.

In February 1997, Administaff went public, and this young man was appointed CFO. Then in 2003 he became President of Administaff and all its subsidiaries.

In 2011, Administaff underwent a complete renewal and transformation — changing its name to Insperity, which combines inspiration and prosperity. The firm went from the staffing business to create a new industry of its own, an industry that employs business performance advisors who help clients create value in their businesses, to help businesses succeed, as they say, so communities prosper.  Today Insperity is a NYSE listed firm with $2 billion in annual revenues, and with over 57 offices and 2000 corporate employees. The man behind this story, of course is Richard Rawson, and I want to say the rest is history, but not quite.

A big part of the history here would not have happened but for the inspiration in Richard’s life, his wife Dawn.  You see, in the 90s, Dawn Rawson, set up a volunteering initiative at Administaff and set up a corporate philanthropy program giving back to the community.  They gave to the UH College of Education and to the CBA, where the city’s business leaders were being educated. In fact they were one of 50 entities to set up a $10,000 fund to help create the Center for Entrepreneurship (now the Wolff Center). Then, in September 2005, Richard Rawson headlined the college’s Distinguished Leader Speaker Series, and talked to a packed audience of students and faculty here in the very room that now bears his name.  It was the Dawn and Richard Show, and boy, was it well received.  Of course as we all know no good deed goes unpunished, so we in 2007, we invited Richard to give the fall commencement address to our students titled “Leadership: From the Classroom to the Boardroom,” a speech which still echoes in my mind. The next year, in 2008, he joined the newly formed Dean’s Advisory Board at Bauer College, and in 2010 he was voted chair of the board.

In 2009, a young woman named Kimberly, who was working at the time in Washington D.C., at the White House, a young woman who could have gone to any business school of her choice, decided — rather, was convinced by her father — that the Bauer College would be her top choice destination for an MBA.  Kimberly, rather Kimberly Rawson, I am proud to say, was my student, and she graduated with an MBA from the Bauer College in 2011.

I got to know Richard really well in 2011 soon after I was appointed dean.  We worked together, and thanks to Richard’s leadership, the Insperity deal, came to fruition.  The Insperity gift was the single largest gift for our new building, which helped us build out the top three floors in the new building.  This deal would not have happened but for Richard’s leadership and commitment.

Last spring, Spring 2012, I started working on The Bauer Excellence Initiative, an initiative focused on raising funds entirely to fund student scholarships.  With the Bauer gift in 2001, the College had invested heavily in faculty and building programs, which have gained national recognition today — the Cyvia and Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the Sales Excellence Institute, the Global Energy Management Institute, among others. Next in 2005, we started investing in facilities — Cemo Hall, the Insperity building. Investing in student scholarships must and will be our next priority.  Helping students graduate on time and with no debt is not just our responsibility; it is our duty.  So, I took this idea of setting up a $25 million endowment to my advisory board, which was chaired by Richard.  I was honored beyond words, when in December 2012, Dawn and Richard decided to fund the first 7-figure gift to The Bauer Excellence Scholarship Endowment, which supports the scholarship initiative.

A successful alum, married to a woman who believes that success is measured by what you give rather than what you receive, a corporate leader, chair of my advisory board, obviously a parent who has the written the book on bringing up kids — (if you can convince your offspring who can go to any school of her choice that she should attend his alma mater, no more said), president of a company that gave a significant gift to the College in 2011, and to now know that he is making a million dollar personal gift to fund student scholarships — the story is the stuff that business school deans dream of, I guess.

Dawn and Richard, your investment in our students, will help us change lives one successful student at a time.  As Ted Bauer, whose name we proudly bear said, “An investment in people is the finest thing you can do.”  And by this gift, you will be touching generations of students, countless lives who will graduate knowing that the reason they were able to afford a fine education was thanks to the generosity of people who believed that giving is more satisfying than receiving.  Thank you Dawn, thank you Richard.

The gift, the name and really, the message behind the name is significant.  Just like the message when you enter Cemo Hall and learn about Mike Cemo’s life and success, or when you visit students at the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.  Mike, Melvyn, Richard, they are our proud alums and they fully represent the Bauer brand.  To me, the Bauer brand is captured in the work ethic that our students, our alumni, our stakeholders bring to the table, a willingness to do the job, and an integrity, that is second to none.

These names, these buildings, the bricks and stones that lie behind the Rawson Auditorium or Cemo Hall or the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center speak to the quality of the Bauer brand  — we call it aptitude, without attitude, humility without hubris, success without arrogance, that is the Bauer brand.

 

“What else can you do? …It is the right thing to do.”

 


Reconnect

February 13, 2013

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Bauer Executive MBA Program.  It was a well-organized event and it was humbling to see alumni return to celebrate and reconnect.  It was an opportune moment to talk about where we had come, and more important, where we were headed as a program, a college, and an institution of learning.   You see, #35 is special. It is not 25 and it is not 50, and interestingly 35 is the minimum age you need to be to run for president of the U.S., so obviously it is a turning point presumably representing a maturity threshold.

In our context, for the EMBA program at the Bauer College of Business, what does this maturity point represent?

Yes, we are a large school — almost 6,000 students with a comprehensive range of programs. We graduate about 1,500 students every year, and our programs are nationally ranked — #5 in the country among publics to produce the largest # of S&P 500 CEOs and our undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the top 3 nationally. We now offer the EMBA here in Houston, in Beijing, in Dubai and in India, and debuting soon will be a version of this program in the Woodlands — all thanks to the people, our students, our faculty, our staff, and very importantly, you, our alumni.  And I could give you reams of statistics on what we have accomplished in the last 35 years.

In many ways however, our next move, the shift, or the inflexion, is driven not so much by quantitative metrics, but more by a qualitative shift in our brand — we are moving from a degree-provider approach to a customized, how-do-I-leverage-my-skills approach where we focus on expanding our participants’ sphere of influence.

The big rock of our times, as Jim Clifton describes in his book, The Coming Jobs War, is that currently global population exceeds 7 billion, of which 3 billion are capable of working, but there are only 1.2 billion jobs.  Unemployment on the scale of 1.8 billion, which is almost one quarter of the global population, is the biggest challenge of our times.  Rather than a transactional approach built around helping our participants find jobs, our program today is about helping you find, but more importantly create, jobs and really create opportunities for you and for those around you.

You see, in business schools we don’t reinvent the wheel, rather we help you understand how to move the wheel forward. Any more however, there are too many wheels all on the same street and the streets that were once open are now under construction.  As much as you need to know how to move the wheel forward, the true reward lies in paving a new street where you can navigate your wheel.

If you listened to the conversations coming out of Davos this year, the themes of our day are disruptive innovation, the new normal of slow growth and cautious optimism, and dealing with change.  In the most recent issue of the HBR there is an article on the 100 best CEOs, and the competency that seems to be in demand is the ability to learn even as the world around you changes.  From teaching finance, and accounting, and marketing and information systems, or the basic language of business, our EMBA program — your EMBA program — is moving to a plane where we help you learn, but more importantly we help you learn how to learn.  We have teamed up with Korn/Ferry International to offer a curriculum that will help develop competencies that you can use to move your organizations even during periods of massive change, tools that will help you learn even as things change, to manage even as rules change, and to lead even as the plan changes.

Fortunately, the tools available to us to accomplish this are also evolving — the revolution in technology is allowing us to create customized learning experiences.  So the second theme we are building on is customization — knowledge is standard but the learning experience needs to be customized, and if you walk around the University Classroom and Business Building, which houses the Insperity Center and the new home of our EMBA program, you will hopefully get a sense of that — you can sit in the quiet reading room on the 5th floor, or you can work with your team of 5 in a breakout room, or you can work with a larger group in our lounge areas, or you can chat with your teammates in Dubai in our video conferencing facility.  I know it is not done yet, but we are getting there.  Bottom line — our maturity lines are the result of us, our programs, our faculty and staff learning to deal with disruptive innovation in our environment.  And we have just begun.

But the bottom line is that now more than ever, as Mitch Joel describes it, we live in a world characterized by six pixels of separation rather than six degrees of separation. We are closer than we have ever been, we can reach out and connect like we have never done before, and that is the third rock driving our inflexion point.  We are reaching out, we are connecting and we want you to connect, we want you to come visit us, visit us and bring a friend, visit us and mentor a student, visit us and share your expertise, visit us and participate as a volunteer, visit us and refer a colleague, visit us and refer a donor.

Let’s connect.