Higher Learning


In the wake of corporate scandals involving everything from falsified earnings statements to backdated stock options to poorly timed bonuses, it’s not surprising that our confidence in the people who run the mighty institutions of our country is waning.

These days, it seems that the blatantly illegal behavior of some scoundrels is only outdone by the incredibly stupid actions of others. But take heart: amid the growing onslaught of misconduct is an astonishing story of selfless generosity.

Facing $38 million in state funding cuts, officials at Clemson University made the gut-wrenching decision last fall to furlough every employee for five days. Predictably, some faculty members promptly approached administrators with concerns about the fairness of imposing the furloughs. Officials were undoubtedly prepared for a certain amount of resistance. But imagine their delight to learn that the teachers weren’t troubled by the effect on their own paychecks.

Instead, the faculty was worried about Clemson’s lower-wage workers for whom a one-week pay cut could be devastating.

So working with the faculty, Clemson officials established a relief fund to support employees needing financial assistance to weather the furloughs. Faculty, employees, students, trustees, businesses, and the public donated more than $71,000 to the fund. To date, 158 employees have received money to offset their forfeited income.

Think about the significance of this gesture.

In the middle of an economic recession, knowing that they would each lose a week’s pay, Clemson faculty and staff members did not dwell on their own hardship, but on the furlough’s impact on their coworkers. I find that not only remarkable, but also encouraging.

A little man may do a great deal of harm; and pray, why not a little man do a great deal of good?” Cotton Mather, Essays to Do Good

If the I’m-only-in-it-for-myself philosophy being demonstrated by countless business people is destroying your faith in professionals at all levels, don’t despair. The headlines might not reflect it, but stories like the one above abound. And though a small group of greedy figures can cast a shadow on the entire business world, the actions of a small number of bighearted individuals can restore our belief that people are generally good.

George Brymer is author of Vital Integrities and the creator of
The Leading from the Heart Workshop®.
He can be reached at george.brymer@allsquareinc.com 
Image Source: greatwhatsit.com

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