Photo Gallery: Alumni CEOs Discuss Value of Jesuit Education During Campaign Kickoff Weekend

Intellectual curiosity and humility learned at Holy Cross translate to business success

On Saturday, April 30, Holy Cross hosted a symposium, titled “The Value and Relevancy of a Jesuit Education in the 21st Century,” in Dinand Library’s Main Reading Room. It was a featured event of the “Become More: Campaign for the Future of Holy Cross” kickoff weekend.

Four distinguished alumni served as panelists: Douglas M. Baker Jr. ’81, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Ecolab Inc.; AnnMaura Connolly ’86, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of City Year and president of Voices for National Service; Brian P. Kelley ’83, vice chairman of Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.; and Mary Agnes “Maggie” Wilderotter ’77, former chief executive officer and executive chairman of Frontier Communications.

Introduced by Frank Vellacio, senior vice president, and moderated by Stephanie Yuhl, professor of history, the symposium began with the panelists describing their path to Holy Cross and continued with them offering insight into their experiences at the College — and the value they place on their liberal arts education today.

“I do believe that the heart of the liberal arts is the skill building that occurs because, now, knowledge is fleeting, either because you don’t remember or because what’s a ‘fact’ changes over time,” explained Baker, whose company works to solve the world’s complex water, hygiene and energy problems.

“I think it’s about being a fully integrated person,” commented Connolly, whose service organization actively recruits liberal arts graduates. “Your values, your beliefs, your skills: taking it all and figuring out how you lead a life of purpose. That’s the value [of a liberal arts education].”

“You learn from a liberal arts perspective to be very curious,” observed Wilderotter, who credited her varied experiences on the Hill — from radio announcer to bowling team member — with contributing to her self-awareness. “You ask a lot of questions. You have great conversations and discussions, and you learn to articulate those in writing and verbally.”

When asked about the Jesuit concept of self-reflection, Kelley referred to his personal discernment experience as a realization of how little he knew — a notion that resonated with panelists and attendees.

“I think what I learned at Holy Cross was this ‘aggressive humility.’ The humility that says, ‘I know very little,’ but it’s an aggressive humility, because you say, ‘now I want to learn,’” explained Kelley.

The lively discussion continued with the panelists discussing ethical leadership, organizational values and effective management. The event concluded with a number of questions from the students and alumni in attendance, tackling topics from diversity in hiring practices to lifelong learning, along with big questions like whether they have ever walked away from a deal because of ethical concerns.

Kelley tied his experiences dealing with moral issues in business to what he learned on the Hill:

“We’re faced with challenges every day — literally, every day — some large, some small. The foundation for how we make decisions is based on what I learned here at Holy Cross: To identify the values at stake; to look to the past, the present and the future implications; and to make the decision based on that. Exactly what we learned here. And so I think having a fundamental foundation for how to make decisions with an ethical lens is what is important.”

For more information on the campaign, and the progress of construction, please visit the campaign website:

Written by Rebecca Smith ’99 & Kim Staley ’99

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