By Laura Cantera
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, presented the International Executive of the Year award to Patrick G. Ryan Friday, Nov. 8.
“Patrick Ryan, we honor you for what you”ve accomplished, but even more, for what you are,” President Faust said.
Since its origination in 1974, each year the IEY award has been given to a business executive who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and high ethical and moral character. It is the highest award given by the Marriott School to an outside executive, said Joseph Ogden, assistant dean at the Marriott School of Business.
“We try to find people to hold up as role models in the business community for students and alumni,” Ogden said.
Ryan certainly meets the criteria.
As CEO of Aon Corporation, the largest insurance brokerage company in the world, with employees in 125 countries, Ryan doubled the company”s revenue and profitability.
He has shown, however, he is not only concerned about the secular interests of his company, but also about the employees that help it succeed, as he helped lead the company through a difficult period after the tragedies of 9/11, Ogden said.
Aon”s largest corporate office was located in the World Trade Center. When 176 of his 53,000 employees were killed in the 9/11 bombings, Ryan realized they needed help.
“There was no question about how we should react. We had to reach out to the people. We had to communicate with them, give them as much comfort as possible,” Ryan said.
He said after the tragedy, his employees were apprehensive about the realization they had lost loved ones.
“They were very insecure for lots of obvious reasons but there are two that struck us as being absolutely critical and something we could do something about,” Ryan said.
He knew the main fears of people were obtaining medical insurance and providing for their children”s college educations.
Ryan answered these concerns as he and the Aon Corporation came to the rescue.
“We made the decision, as a company, that we would put these families in the same position they had been in had they not lost a loved one,” Ryan said.
Ryan also created a foundation, to which he donated ten million dollars, as an employee memorial fund.
“That”s really what the end reaction to the World Trade Center was-a recognition that it wasn”t something we had to do, it was something that was the right thing to do,” Ryan said. “Do the right thing because it”s the right thing to do, not because it”s the political thing to do, or the expedient thing to do. It”s the right thing to do.”
Ryan said he sees this same spirit of doing the right thing in the culture and spirit of Brigham Young University.
“The values that you are sharing among the faculty and students are values that make the product you have here so valuable to people in business,” he said.
Although not a member of the LDS church, Ryan nearly quoted scripture when he revealed the reason he and his wife decided years ago to serve others, saying, “because to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Previous recipients of the IEY award include John Pepper of Proctor and Gamble, Stanford McDonald of McDonald Douglas and LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Although Ryan was in the limelight, typical of his character, he wished to accentuate the positives of others.
“I”m humbled and overwhelmed. I had no idea what this experience was going to be like,” he said. “I knew I”d meet a lot of nice people and I”d see a great university and campus, but I had no idea what the feeling would be like to be with people who have such great faith and commitment, and who live the spirit and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
His colleagues feel Ryan is highly deserving of the International Executive of the Year award.
“As I”ve thought about Patrick Ryan and his wife, I”ve thought of the reason we”re honoring them,” said President Bateman. “I think for a long time they”ve understood that one person can make a difference in the world, that if you give of yourself and share that which you have, in the end, many people will be blessed by it.”