A letter from Interim Executive Director Brian Peckrill
Impacting lives today. Creating sustainable change. Empowering future generations to achieve their greatest potential. This is the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund’s vision and the prism in which decisions are made. As I assume the interim executive director role of the McGowan Fund, I am excited by the opportunity to continue this work and honor the legacy of Bill McGowan.
While I might be new to many, my name is also likely familiar. For the past two and a half years, I have been serving as the Fund’s fellows program director. I’ve overseen the strategic vision and operations for the McGowan Fellows Program, coordinated its events, and launched a new initiative, the Ethical Leader of the Year Award.
Since joining the McGowan Fund in 2021, I’ve interacted with corporate business leaders, as well as the business schools who educate them and their staff. For some, the line between executive business leadership and social impact might not be evident, but to me, the two are inexplicably connected. Business creates opportunities, and ethics sustain them.
We all know the infamous stories of Enron and, more recently, Theranos. As these businesses capsized and their executives grew in fame for damaging acts, staff lost their jobs and retirement savings. The legacy shouldn’t be the scandal. Instead, we should take away from these tragedies the stories of those who lost their livelihoods, those who were robbed of their dignity.
Ethical leaders rarely receive the same celebrity as the examples of those gone astray. Why isn’t there more space, more acclaim, and adulation for those who are leading and caring, not just for profits but also for people? Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to sit down with this year’s winner of the Ethical Leader of the Year Award, CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian. In his words, he sees his job as “taking care of [Delta’s] people,” first and foremost. He believes that if you take care of your employees, they’ll in turn take care of your customers, whose business and loyalty allow you to reward your investors. It’s a full circle way of thinking and makes it easy to understand why Delta has thrived under Bastian’s leadership, as well as why he was chosen as our Ethical Leader of the Year.
In caring for employees, Bastian leans into his staff and staff-focused compensation program, where a percentage of all earnings before taxes and management compensation is paid out in bonuses, as well as a unique stock ownership plan that gives a significant portion of the company’s equity to pilots, flight attendants, ground crew members, and support staff; each year, Delta hands out these profit-sharing checks on Valentine’s Day. Programs like these have helped secure Delta as a top employer in the aviation industry.
Bastian is also considered a leader in his Atlanta community. He’s been the Atlanta Business League’s CEO of the Year and the Atlanta Business Chronicle Most People-Focused CEO. John Hancock, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Georgia, says, “Mr. Bastian’s leadership of Delta Air Lines … has served as a model for leaders around the country and the world. His leadership of the world’s number one airline, coupled with his many civic commitments in Atlanta, speaks to his incredible leadership capacity.” Bastian’s care and commitment to kindness can also be seen in his choice to give his award grant of $25,000 to Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, which works to empower volunteers across the country to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research, an issue close to his heart.
Like Bastian, we at the McGowan Fund believe that the best way to lead in our communities and care for our people, is through supporting clear and sustainable pathways to a living wage. Readiness in Skilled Employment (RISE), our newest initiative in Northeast Pennsylvania does just that, so does our grantmaking in the communities in which our board members live and work. Since our founding, we’ve awarded over $180 million in grants, something that brings us immense pride; our grantees have evolved into trusted collaborators with whom we work hand and hand. Over the past 30 years, the Fund has grown in stature, service, and community investment. I have no doubt that these trends will continue while our commitment to our local communities will not waver.
I look forward to working with you to impact lives today, create sustainable change, and empower future generations to achieve their greatest potential together.