A UConn alumnus with an impressive, decades-long record of philanthropy said helping others not only feels great, it can reap tremendous benefits for both corporations and their neighboring communities.
Ed Satell ’57, and his wife, Cyma Satell, said people can either watch things happen or make them happen. The Satells prefer the latter.
They’ve helped turn a Philadelphia K-8 school from underperforming to top-notch; helped revive America’s oldest theater, which now has the most subscribers in the world; and sent more than 75 UConn business students to Guatemala for the summer to learn about social entrepreneurship.
Satell, founder of Progressive Business Publications and an often-honored philanthropist, spoke on “Profit and Growth: Why Corporate Social Responsibility Matters and How it Gives You and Your Company a Competitive Edge” to an intimate group of students, faculty and alumni at the Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford. The October 27 presentation was part of the Theodore R. Rosenberg ’55 & Mary F. McVay Business Leadership Series.
“Think we, not just me!” he urged the audience. Even the youngest and newest employees can plant the seed of corporate social responsibility, he said.
“If you have an idea, present it,” he said. “Many people are good at getting information. Fewer are good at acting on it. Work hard, share your thoughts, have integrity and goals. Never give up on your own promise and ideas. Associate with good people. You will have disappointments, but resilience is what matters. It counts more than just about anything.”
When asked by the moderator, Management Professor Lucy Gilson, whether social responsibility complements or conflicts with corporate goals to generate profit, Satell said benevolence will benefit a company in the long term.
“Customers do business with people they admire and like. Employees stay places they like. People tend not to like greed!” he said to the audience. “I believe if you think about the greater good, you’ll have a better future. A stronger community is a better place in which to do business.”
Corporate social responsibility can extend in countless directions, Satell said. A company can support education, sports, cultural organizations, health care or any number of worthwhile civic projects.
The two charitable foundations under the Satells’ guidance are the Satell Family Foundation Trust and the Progressive Business Publications Charitable Trust Fund. Combined they support 34 projects across 22 institutions.
During his presentation, Satell highlighted how his employees have “adopted” the Cook-Wissahickon K-8 school in Philadelphia, a partnership in its 14th year. Without changing the curriculum at all, the school, which borders a housing project, has gone from the bottom 20 percent of public schools to the top 10 percent. As corporate partners, Progressive Business Publications created before- and after-school programs and a strong mentoring program. PBP sponsors career days, pays for yearbooks and even buys Thanksgiving dinners.
“We did it by creating a community between students, parents, teachers and administrators,” he said. “We have 40-volunteer mentors who go to the school, during company time, for one hour every week. We created an after-school program so that what the kids learn between 9 and 3 isn’t undone between 3 and 6.”
Another of the couple’s favorite projects involved reviving the Walnut Street Theatre, America’s oldest theater. Located in Philadelphia, it boasts 56,000 season ticket holders, the most subscriptions of any theater company in the world. The Satells sponsor the annual spring season and even hosting cast parties. Satell sits on the Board of Trustees.
The family also funds a summer trip to Guatemala for UConn students. More than 75 students who are interested in international development work directly with field professionals. Not only are they helping poor and marginalized communities in developing regions, but also acquiring business skills and intercultural knowledge.
He read letters from students who have taken the 8-week trip and they described the life-changing experience that grew from their travels. “The key to feeling really good—help somebody” he said, adding that is a privilege to be able to give back.
In addition to funding, Satell offers personal involvement and expert guidance to the organizations he, his family and his company support.
Satell said he has great respect for UConn, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Satell was inducted into the UConn School of Business Hall of Fame in 2012. He and his wife were inducted into the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia earlier this month.
The Theodore R. Rosenberg ’55 & Mary McVay Business Leadership Series was established to bring the nation’s leading business executives to UConn to lecture on contemporary topics and issues facing today’s global economy.