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We Can Lead in the Right Direction

A letter from Executive Director Diana Spencer

Dear Friends,

On June 13, the Fund presented the inaugural Ethical Leader of the Year Award to Charles F. Lowrey, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial. The year leading up to this moment offered all of us here at the Fund a sense of hope that ethical leadership could become societal norm.

In this newsletter, you’ll meet Charles Lowrey. You’ll also meet MBA students who have completed the McGowan Fellows Program and participated in ethical leadership development training. Finally, you’ll hear about Claudia, the mother of five who achieved housing and a sustainable life.

I believe all these things are connected. All reflect the Fund’s progress toward catalyzing ethics in business and in society through values-based leadership and principled giving.

First, the leadership award. When we started working on this, the world had faced more pain and division during the height of COVID than it had in 50 years. Trust of organizational leaders was reduced to 23 percent. We knew there were strong, ethical leaders in our country, and we knew that highlighting the work of one such leader could help bring a divided nation together—shine a light, invite others to think about the values all of us can bring to work.

We came to the process with principles in mind—McGowan’s six principles, which include accountability, character and integrity, courage, empathy, resilience, and self-awareness. These principles undergird our work as grant makers and our fellowship program, and they guided our thinking. Months were spent in the process. When it came down to the final two candidates, our C-suite panel of judges deliberated for hours. We had two good candidates, but what were the differentiating factors?

Ultimately, Lowrey was chosen due to his guiding principles, strong recommendations from many who knew him, and his deep expectations and communication of this to every Prudential employee: Do the right thing, every day, in every conversation, and in every decision. After his selection for the award, Lowrey maintained his position that it’s all about the company, ensuring that the only press release announcing the win was internal to the company.

Second, you’ll meet some McGowan Fellows, MBAs who have gone through our fellowship program. As McGowan alumni, they have taken our development training into the world and they have something to say about ethics in real organizations, real jobs, real lives. More reason to hope! Another reason to hope: Many of them reunite every year to discuss their experiences, explore new ideas, and support one another.

And third, you’ll meet Claudia, a mother fleeing domestic abuse. Access to housing is the first step in her new trajectory. There’s an ethic in her story, an understanding of equity; and there’s hope when a program can tap into reserves of courage, empathy, and resilience and achieve a 100 percent return. Claudia’s story demonstrates why the Fund counts housing as a major priority.

Through all these stories, the power of ethics is palpable. In corporate C-suites and in nonprofits, leadership should be tied to values. Ethical consideration should be the societal norm.

Every day, ethical dilemmas arise and decisions are made. In your work, what are the ethical issues you face? What are the principles you adhere to? We would love to hear from you.


Diana Spencer
Executive Director