Leadership and Life

Jack Ouellette is current chairman, previous president and former CEO of American Textile, a multinational company that manufactures protective and allergen barrier bedding products.  He’s also a Duquesne MBA alumnus who came to campus to discuss life and business lessons with students.


Jack Ouellette (middle) accompanied by MBA Students from the Donohue Graduate School of Business

As Jack noted, he used to think that “education was from a book or a classroom” (but) “now realizes that a lot of things that happen in real life are really great learning experiences.”

Jack got us thinking by posing five questions:

  • Do you take full responsibilities for your action at all times?
  • Are you at your very best when things are seemingly at their worst?
  • Do you know when good enough, is good enough?
  • With people, are you controlling or over-controlling?
  • Do you take care of your people?

“Leadership is all about people, and business is all about people,” according to Jack who was proud to describe the company he helped build by respecting associates, customers, and suppliers.

After 38 years at American Textile, Jack still has the spark of a fresh MBA graduate.   His most memorable piece of wisdom:  “Others respect you when you stand up in the storm.”

As sustainability students, we are attempting to change the world, impact it for the better, and create a more prosperous future for our children in a time of great chaos.  I challenge all of you to be the one who stands up in the storm, and become the change you want to see in the world.


Paul O’Neill on Leadership

Last week, our cohort spent an hour listening to Paul O’Neill, 72nd Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former chairman and chief executive officer of Alcoa. His speech was engaging, with a variety of illustrative personal stories.  When I left the symposium, I wanted to work for a company with a CEO like Paul.  Then I started thinking, why don’t I just do everything in my power to be a leader like Paul O’Neill?

Paul challenged us, future business leaders, to create a work culture where every person can answer “yes” to the following statements:

1. “I’m treated with dignity and respect everyday by everyone I encounter” without regard to gender, race, rank, degrees, etc.

2. “I’m given the things I need” (e.g., resources, education, training, supervision, etc.) “to make a contribution that gives meaning to my life.”

3. ” I’m recognized for what I do by someone whose opinion I care about.”

Without having heard Paul’s speech, I’m sure that you are thinking, “I want all three of those in my work life!” So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to become the manager to make the change in an organization?

I hope that in my future I am able to follow Paul’s lead and create a safe, healthy work environment.  I wanted to leave you with a video of Paul so that you can be ignited by his words too.

Professor Bill O’Rourke

Professor O'Rourke speaking at an sMBA engagement.

Professor O’Rourke speaking at an sMBA engagement.

Our cohort recently finished a course taught by Professor Bill O’Rourke on Change Management. Not only is Professor O’Rourke a facility member, he is executive director of the Beard Institute, and an active mentor for our MBA consulting project and practicum courses.

In 2011, Professor O’Rourke retired from Alcoa, where he was Vice President of Environment, Health & Safety, and Sustainability. He remains involved as a member on the Board of the Alcoa Foundation, where he teaches “Values” at Alcoa Executive Development Programs. O’Rourke earned is Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University, and began practicing law as a Patent Attorney at Alcoa. During his time at Alcoa, Professor O’Rourke held numerous leadership positons, including President of Alcoa-Russia from 2005-2008.