Do good first. And worry about saving the world later. These words, attributed to University of Richmond’s beloved accounting professor, Dr. Joe Ben Hoyle, formed the cornerstone of Raegan Morris’ keynote remarks at Finale, the Jepson School’s senior recognition ceremony held during Commencement weekend.
Raegan, who graduated with a leadership studies degree in 1999, has served in leadership roles at Capital One for more than a decade. A member of the Jepson School’s Executive Board of Advisors, former chairwoman of the Jepson Alumni Corps, and member of the University of Richmond Alumni Association, she is deeply engaged in leadership at the University. Her remarks centered on three lessons she took away from her studies at the Jepson School.
First, leadership studies professor Tom Wren introduced Raegan to the power of service. Indeed, she remarked that Robert Greenleaf’s essay on servant leadership appeared at page 18 in “The Leader’s Companion,” Dr. Wren’s 500-plus-page book. That early placement signaled the significance Dr. Wren placed on the idea of servant leadership. Raegan learned that effective, ethical leaders must ensure the needs of others are served. She came to accept that her own life of moral consequence is best lived through doing good first and worrying about saving the world later.
From Mary Sue Terry—a former Virginia attorney general, the inaugural Jepson School leader-in-residence, and a former adjunct instructor in leadership studies—Raegan learned the importance of reflection. In response to Raegan’s semester-long journal reflections, Ms. Terry wrote a three-page, single-spaced, hand-written series of her own reflections, including a piece of advice: “Be careful not to lose yourself in service to others.” That advice helped Raegan gain self-awareness and mindfulness.
Finally, Raegan learned to think critically about the world around her. In her view, the Jepson School experience “arms students with an arsenal to fight against the crisis of leadership,” a feeling that persists 20 years after her graduation.
These three lessons continue to be central to our curriculum, our classrooms, and our discussions.
Raegan closed her remarks with three pieces of advice. She urged our alumni to be kind to themselves and avoid self-doubt. Leaders must constantly reflect and be self-aware, but they must also realize and accept that the weight of the entire world does not rest on their shoulders. Second, she encouraged our graduates to approach the world with curiosity and not judgment, counseling them to argue as if they are right, but listen as if they are wrong. Finally, she reiterated Joe Ben Hoyle’s advice: Do good first and save the world later.
If our graduates learn as much from Raegan as I have, they will be well equipped, indeed, to address the crisis of leadership that persists around us today.