As they built their fathers small Idaho business into the prosperous, multifaceted corporation it is today, Arthur F. Skip and Doug Oppenheimer witnessed some unsavory tactics.
Lying is not a negotiating strategy, Doug Oppenheimer says with an incredulous laugh from the Boise headquarters of Oppenheimer Companies Inc., a national food processing, sales, marketing and distribution organization.
A one-time reporter for the Idaho Statesman, Doug Oppenheimer says he occasionally has seen a lack of good behavior among those in the media.
Those experiences helped lead the brothers to an abiding interest in ethics and a desire to teach ethical behavior to subsequent generations. Among their many other extracurricular and philanthropic activities, their Oppenheimer Ethics Fund and the University of Idaho Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium stand as testaments to that goal.
Ethical behavior, whether it be in business, the media or government, is the foundation for everything we do, Skip Oppenheimer says. The importance of reminding ourselves about ethics and keeping it in the forefront of our thinking is one of the objectives of the symposium.
Doug Oppenheimer adds: Ethical behavior is non-negotiable. Being able to tell ourselves that we have never crossed the line in terms of doing the right thing is important in any aspect of our lives, and hopefully the symposium can provide information and discussion about these principles.
The symposium held its third session this fall in Boise.
For their efforts on the ethics front and in other areas, the U of I awarded the Oppenheimer brothers honorary doctorates at this falls commencement.
College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences Dean Katherine Aiken nominated the Oppenheimers last spring. She got to know them as part of her duties leading the college over the last six years.
Theyre just plain nice people, Aiken says.
Aiken says the brothers share her passion for baseball and have an adventurous side that prompted them to pay big bucks for the chance to drive NASCAR-style race cars. And unlike some people with a strictly business state of mind, the Oppenheimers are possessed with an acute affinity for the sometimes-maligned philosophical side of higher education.
They have a real appreciation for the liberal arts, and a liberal education in general, Aiken says.
Skip Oppenheimer graduated in 1968 from the U of I with a degree in history before moving on to Harvard for his masters in business administration. Doug Oppenheimer graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism.
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