Exercising Ethical Decision-Making
College of Business & Public Administration
Alumnus and former CEO of Cargill, Greg Page, speaks at twelfth annual Olafson Ethics Symposium.
When Greg Page interviewed with Cargill, Incorporated after graduating from the University of North Dakota College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA), he told the interviewer he only planned on working there for two years before going to work for his father.
“His answer to me was, ‘well, we’ll see about that,’” said Page. “At the end of two years I liked the people, I liked the work.”
After nearly 42 years, Page retired; not as the trainee assigned to the Feed Division he started as back in 1974—but as the company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
“I stayed because of the family and the way they treated the organization from a growth standpoint,” said Page.
Cargill— one of the largest privately held companies in America— provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world, according to its website.
Though he graduated with a degree in economics, Page attributes obtaining his job at Cargill to the UND Department of Accountancy.
“I studied economics and accounting and it proved very serviceable for what I was doing. Cargill is a trading company so the concepts of elasticity, and regressions, and business law, and leans, and bailments, all of the things that I learned here were useful on the first day,” said Page.
Page does not only credit the University for his success.
“I think growing up in a small town helps you,” said Page, a Bottineau, N.D. native. “You realize if you want something to happen, you better pick up the shovel yourself.”
On November 3, 2016, Page came back to speak at the CoBPA’s twelfth annual Olafson Ethics Symposium.
“A lot of good things happened in my life because of UND so it doesn’t seem too much to ask for me to come back,” said Page. “It’s a small recognition that the tuition I paid was clearly underpriced, and I know that’s not what your students want to hear, but in the outcome and totality of my work experience, I got a lot out of the University.”
The Olafson Ethics symposium is designed to engage students, alumni and local business leaders in conversations regarding ethical decision-making. SEI Investments Company and UND alumnus, Bob Olafson, fund the event. Olafson choose to establish this event in support of his dedication to ethical business practices and the University.
“We hope to give students and other attendees the opportunity to listen to people who can pass along their thoughts, their experiences and descriptions of how they have addressed ethical questions or issues. We hope the audience can store some of this away and build a foundation in their own minds that they can use as they go forward,” says Olafson.
More than 350 people attended the Olafson lectureship this year. At the event, Page discussed his experiences at Cargill, as well as the ethical standards the company values so highly.
“It’s really taking our core belief systems and not making it too complicated; Not giving people a three-inch manual of what to do in every given situation. Most of the behavior of our employees is guided by seven simple sentences,” said Page.
Both Page and Olafson feel ethical decision-making is part of every-day life.
"It’s just one of those things that when you go through life, you realize that whether it’s at work or otherwise, you’re regularly faced with situations where you have to make a decision about what you think is the right thing to do. Ethical values are something that are always there but it’s not something that you always sit down and take the time to think about; To think about defining your own values that you want to live by, the kind of place you want to work and figuring out how you will address ethics-related questions. I hope it’s helpful to the students to have these opportunities to really think about it and be a little bit more prepared as they go out to start the rest of their lives,” said Olafson.
In addition to giving back his time, Page gives back to UND financially. He is a frequent donor to the UND CoBPA—especially when it comes to student scholarships. For the 2015-2016 school year, Page awarded scholarship money to 29 different students.
“It’s so fun to get the (thank you) letters from the scholarship recipients,” said Page. “They tell me where they’re from, what they’re studying and what they want to do when the graduate. It really personalizes the fact that it’s not just a financial gift. It comes through in a lot of the letters—how delighted they are to receive it. But more importantly, I’m delighted to hear what they’re doing with this education and what their aspirations are.”
Just one month before the Olafson Ethics Symposium, the CoBPA hosted its annual Mellem Symposium. The event featured keynote speaker, UND alumna and CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, Sally Smith. When Smith was asked to give students her best piece of advice, she said, “Be curious and never stop learning.”
While Page feels, “not one nostrum fits all situations,” his best piece of advice is not far off from Smith’s: “I don’t care what path you choose, if you’re not curious, you’re leaving here way too unprepared,” said Page.
Though he’s graduated and recently retired, Page says, “Seven things plus seven grand kids keep (him) busy.”
Page serves as a member of the board of directors of Eaton Corporation, Deere & Company and 3M. He is past-chair of the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and immediate past-president of the Northern-Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Page is a Sioux Award winner and one of this year’s honorary degree recipients.
Haugesag, Averi, "Exercising Ethical Decision-Making" (2016). UND News Archive. 1398.