Well, I was a student at Williams and had only recently come off of braces and a crew cut and was still trying to figure out how to get a six-pack on the weekend when I was underage. We were in class and discussing developing countries and I don’t recall anymore exactly what the point was but I responded in an off-hand, flippant manner to a point that Professor Gaudino had made with a comment, the intellectual equivalent of “let them eat cake.” And I had an experience I have never had before in my life. “Sparky” Gaudino walked right up to me and his eyes were blazing and looked me right in the eye and said, “You can’t seriously mean that?” I thought, “My gosh, what does he mean?” It was obviously a joke but what’s his point? And he said to me, “If you seriously don’t care or have a thoughtful position on what our role should be in helping the poor around the world, what does that say about you and about your life? Could you possibly really mean that? I don’t believe that you do.” And that had such a powerful effect on me I still remember it as well as if it were yesterday. And it’s more than 40 years ago.

What Professor Gaudino was saying to me is: I, Professor Gaudino, take you seriously and you sure as heck ought to take yourself seriously. By which he meant you should do something with your life, with the education you’re getting here that makes a difference in the world, not just fritz your way through life, not just flutter lightly over the top of life, not fritter away all the assets that you have. It had a huge impact on me.

I spent all my time surfing and playing tennis growing up in Hawaii. I hadn’t been confronted with a lot of moral issues. The ethics of surfing wasn’t what caused me to go where he felt I should fly. You know, an 18 or a 19-year-old kid who was concerned about getting his tennis racket restrung and whether he was going to get to play a singles position in the next tournament or whether he was going to get a date this weekend but actually was going to be potentially some person of consequence, a person with an obligation and an opportunity to help to improve the world around him. And that conception had never entered my mind. It wasn’t part of my life until that moment.

Today I challenge my students in a very direct way in every class I teach to take that point of view. I ask them whether this is something simply to be observing, because it’s just fine, or whether there’s some fundamental problem which you cannot tolerate–in which case you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to effectively play a role in improving it. How are you going to elevate the state of the community that you serve? How are you going elevate the practice of management in your company? How are you going to elevate the kind of life people are able to live? Some students are puzzled or befuddled. They didn’t expect this in a business school class, which they think is supposed to prepare them to be a hedge fund manager and take home tens of millions of dollars every year.

Right after I arrived here, it was after the Los Angeles riots, and I concluded that we needed to take action and I started a program that is now in its 20th year and has served more than 1,500 inner-city 10th, 11th and 12th graders and recruited from the 50 key public schools in Los Angeles. We’ve sent 100% of them to four-year colleges. They’re almost entirely from low income families, first in their family to go to college. We sent a few to Williams. Unfortunately this year we sent one to Amherst. I founded a program that serves the professoriate of the historically black colleges and universities of the United States. Their greatest need is faculty development so I raised the money and for several years ran a program in which the leading research professors and the leading teachers of MBA students from around the country came together with a group of invited professors. I founded, during my time as vice-dean here, a leadership suite of executive programs: one for Asian-Pacific-American managers; the next one was for African-American managers; and then one for Latino managers; then one for women managers. I was one of the founders of an organization that operates seven charter schools in the inner-city of Los Angeles with approval to open thirteen more.

So there are lots of ways to be involved. It’s become now a habit for me. But a lot of it came from what happened in my education at Williams and a good part of that was the spirit that was reflected in that class with Professor Gaudino, as well as his very direct intervention into my life.

William Ouchi '65, is the Sanford & Betty Sigoloff Professor in Corporate Renewal at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management and a leading figure in the movement to reform public schools in California and around the nation