- Bill Boulding is the dean of DukeUniversity’s Fuqua School of Business.
- He said his definition of a successful alumnus is someone who is making money and making a positive impact on the world.
- Boulding sees Tim Cook and Melinda Gates as the best examples of business people doing just that.
- This article is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has a clear vision of what a successful alumnus looks like.
It’s someone, he told Business Insider, who is “able to look anyone in the eye and say, ‘In my business, I’m making money.'”
At the same time, Boulding said, “you also have to be able to say, ‘I’m making a positive difference in society through my business activity.'”
Boulding cited Fuqua’s two most famous alumni – Apple CEO Tim Cook and Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates – as examples of people taking the kind of initiative he hopes to see in graduates.
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Of Apple, he said, “It’s no accident that they have become the most valuable company in the world because they’re serving consumer needs in a way that they’re helping to unlock human potential.” Gates, on the other hand, has “gone down a path of, ‘What can we do to use the resources that we have to change lives for the better?'”
Still, Boulding admitted that it would be unfair to hold every Fuqua grad to the standard of becoming the next Cook or Gates. He mentioned some recent graduates who have, on a smaller scale, seized opportunities to make money and make an impact on society.
One alumnus bought a factory in their hometown in China because the residents were dependent on the factory for employment, and “they wanted to make sure that their community was health and vibrant.”
Other people have innovated in the healthcare space, increasing access to healthcare services. Some work in the energy space, making sure that people have access to electricity without deleterious environmental consequences.
These alumni “feel this commitment to their companies in a way that they want to be sure that their customers and their employees live high-quality lives,” Boulding said. “Given that it is an opportunity” to changes lives for the better through business, “it becomes an obligation to act upon that.”