Augsburg News

News Archives - 2002

Augsburg commencement speaker urges graduates to maintain high ethics

May 19, 2002

One of the top business executives in the nation urged Augsburg College graduates Sunday to maintain high ethical standards, even in the wake of recent turmoil and scandal in the business and political world.
"You will not be judged by whom you know, not by what you know, but by who you are, by the commitments you keep, the dreams you realize, the love you give and the journey you take," said James A. Johnson, vice chairman of Perseus, L.L.C., a merchant banking and private equity firm based in Washington, D.C., in his commencement address to Augsburg graduates on Sunday afternoon at Si Melby Hall.

From 1990-99, Johnson served in roles as vice chairman, chairman and CEO, and chairman of the Executive Committee of Fannie Mae. Earlier in his career, he was an executive assistant and advisor to Vice President Walter F. Mondale. He is also currently the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, chairman of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution, and serves on the boards of numerous companies and foundations. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including being named 1998's "Washingtonian of the Year" by Washingtonian Magazine.

In his address to Augsburg graduates, titled "Meeting Your 21st-Century Challenge," Johnson touched on themes learned from his life and his family's background in applying positive ethics to service to the world. His grandparents emigrated from Norway to the western Minnesota town of Benson.Johnson's mother was an Augsburg alumna of the class of 1931. His cousin, Ian Anfinson, is a member of the Augsburg class of 2002.
Johnson is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, and received his master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

In his address, he mentioned recent scandals and turmoil in the business world, in particular the Enron and Arthur Andersen business scandals, and events of the past as a springboard to urge students to maintain high ethical standards in their lives in the working world.

"You don't need a graduate degree to know there is a problem here," Johnson said. "My father and my mother would have had no doubt about the seriousness of these problems we face. Although the environment is far more complex today, the lessons they taught me, and your parents taught you, have pretty much stayed the same."

"There were two pieces of advice my father always gave me: Be honest and be a good employee. The fact is that there is no difference between individual values and corporate values. Good ethics are good business. What we want from friends -- honesty and integrity, energy and optimism, commitment to family and community, hard work and high ethical standards -- are the same qualities we need from American business. These are the same values you've learned at this wonderful college, and the same values that will guide your lives, whatever direction you take."

Augsburg awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, a 1968 Augsburg alumnus. He is only the second person in school history to receive an honorary degree; Augsburg awarded a similar honor to U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, also an Augsburg alumnus, in 2000.

"You have accomplished much and have demonstrated that leadership goes hand in hand with compassion, and evangelism arm and arm with justice," said Augsburg President Dr. William V. Frame in awarding the honorary degree to Hanson.

A St. Paul native, Hanson is the third Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, and the second Augsburg graduate to hold the position. The Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, now retired, was the ELCA's first Presiding Bishop in 1987. Hanson was the immediate past Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod, and had served in the past as a member of Augsburg's Board of Regents.
"I believe the winds of the Holy Spirit continue to blow. They have given every one of you graduates gifts that you will use in your vocations, in the building up of communities for the common good, in the sharing of the wonder of God's love for us in Christ Jesus," Hanson said.

Student Brandon Hofstedt, a native of Cannon Falls, Minn., was awarded the college's Marina Christensen Justice Award, given to the graduating senior who best exemplifies Augsburg's motto, "Education for Service," through a dedication to community involvement.

Hofstedt, a sociology major and McNair Scholar, has consistently demonstrated his leadership skills and commitment in the areas of service, justice and global understanding. Through his years at Augsburg, he has been committed to a broad public agenda, incluidng work through organizations such as MPIRG, the Coalition for Student Activism and the Americorps Youth Works/Get Ready Program.

A total of 541 graduates received degrees from Augsburg during its annual commencement ceremony. Of the graduates, 318 received degrees from the "traditional" undergraduate day school, 137 received degrees from Augsburg's Weekend College, 11 received degrees from Augsburg's partnership with 3M, 31 received degrees from Augsburg's branch campus in Rochester, Minn., and 44 received graduate (master's) level degrees.
Click here for Jim Johnson's commencement speech.