Guided by ethics in law, life and philanthropy

Honesty, integrity, trust and fairness—four powerful words that do not always take the ethical precedence they should, especially when it comes to the dog-eat-dog world of business.

Richard Morrison, a retired lawyer who graduated as part of Northern Arizona University class of 1970, has a plan to address an overlooked but important topic in higher education and beyond—ethics in leadership. With his help, Northern Arizona University will  launch the Institute for Public and Professional Ethics in Leadership as part of The W. A. Franke College of Business.

The institute will be a trailblazer in promoting and integrating leadership ethics and ethical decision-making across NAU’s many academic disciplines. The curriculum will educate NAU students, faculty and the greater community on how to apply ethics to personal and professional decisions.

“There are too many ethical breaches committed by leaders throughout the world. A solid background in ethics helps prepare leaders and followers to develop a high level of trust,” Morrison said. “Trust, in turn, is crucial, so followers can become co-producers with their leaders.”

The institute will strengthen NAU’s quality programs in several areas of study, including forestry, hospitality, nursing, business, education and Indigenous initiatives.

Northern Arizona University and the institute will start as a two-year pilot project, and faculty and staff from the Franke College of Business, College of Arts and Letters and Honors College will develop the program and activities within the university and the broader community.

“Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are at the top of most business leaders’ priority list,” Ashok Subramanian, dean and professor in The W. A. Franke College of Business, said. “What is not as well known is that the world’s most ethical companies—those that have an unwavering commitment to business integrity—also have the highest tangible commitment to ESG programs and initiatives.”

During the pilot, students will have the opportunity to participate in many activities, such as seminars and lecture series, workshops, public relations and marketing activities, interdisciplinary curricula, competitions and more. The common denominator for all these activities is Morrison’s steadfast vision to make ethical leadership a vital ingredient of post-secondary education.

“I wholeheartedly believe that this budding project will inspire students to be the best they can be,” he said. “In time, they will be the leaders who are relied upon, and they will serve best if, by then, ethical decision-making and ethical choices are second nature.”

NAU Communications