For nearly a decade, the Washington chapter of the BYU Management Society has not only been a gathering place for influential LDS business and government leaders, but also a training ground for aspiring young executives.
By bringing together this mix of talent - proven professionals and future managers - the chapter is making a quiet, yet important, contribution toward building the nation's private and public resources.Founding chapter president Dr. Mark W. Cannon likens the cooperative venture between experience and youth to the biblical story of Moses and Jethro. "The visible example of good leadership can have a tremendous impact on others," said Cannon, who was administrative assistant to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and now director of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution.
In its formative years, the chapter hosted luncheons where entrepreneurs and managers from around the country, and their counterparts in Washington, D.C., would discuss such divergent topics as the place of traditional values in society, the impact of women in the workplace, or the elements of Presidential leadership.
Betty Schomann of the Marriott Corporation, who is secretary of the chapter's board of directors, remembers these gatherings in the Senate Caucus Room, where chief executive officers who faced similar pressures and responsibilities could meet and exchange viewpoints with other chapter members.
Today the group relies almost exclusively on its own internal resources and holds it leadership workshops out "in the field." In the past year the chapter has quadrupled its membership to 600.
Leading the way is a chapter board of directors that reads like a "Who's Who" - among them Admiral Paul A. Yost, commandant of the United States Coast Guard; Lee Roderick, newly elected president of the National Press Club; Bruce Christensen, president of the Public Broadcasting System; Nolan Archibald, president and chief executive officer of Black and Decker; Steve Studdart, who formerly worked in the White House as head of the President's advance team; and Beverly Campbell, the Church's East Coast director for Public Communications and International Affairs.
Each quarter in night-time seminars, executives explain how their organizations work and what they do to manage the daily stresses and challenges of leadership. For chapter members, especially entry-level or mid-career professionals, this is an "unparalleled opportunity to be mentored by national leaders and to participate in a dialogue with them," said Sister Campbell.
When tensions heightened in the Persian Gulf last summer, the U.S. Coast Guard played a crucial role in operations there. Admiral Yost, who leads the 38,000 men and women of the Coast Guard, shared his views about the ramifications of the U.S. military action in that sensitive area of the world. He also briefed society members about how the Coast Guard fights the United States' war on drugs, including a new joint plan with the U.S. Customs, which aims to reduce the amount of illegal drugs entering the country.
Other seminars were equally noteworthy. Political strategist and Presidential pollster Richard Wirthlin's account of the 1986 Senate race provided a rare insiders' look at regional and national politics. Rep. Ronald C. Packard, R-Calif., arranged for exclusive use of the House of Representatives chamber for an evening dialogue on how congress works. As the fall 1987 television season approached, chapter members visited the new PBS headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where network president Christensen gave them a sneak preview of future programs.
But the seminar with the biggest draw - more than 1,000 people - was a tribute to the bicentennial of the constitution, featuring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Cannon.
Besides leadership development, the chapter provides social and cultural outlets for its members as well. Every year an annual dinner is held at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 people gathered for the msot recent dinner, on Feb. 19, to hear President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency.
His message was for Church members to maintain high ethical standards in a environment where, he said, "anyone . . . must certainly wonder whether there is much left of integrity in America."
President Hinckley added. ". . . I could give my talk in two words. They are: `Be good.'"
Later he cited a simple, and familiar, code of conduct for members of the Church to follow from the 13th Article of Faith.
"Whether we wish it or not, the world will look on us, and we cannot disassociate our private behavior from our public performance," President Hinckley declared. "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous. . . . We ought to measure everything we do against these principles plainly set forth and simple to understand, albeit not always easy to apply."
The dinner is also where winners of the chapter's Distinguished Public Service Award are announced. Recipients have included Cannon; Rex E. Lee, former solicitor general of the United States, and, this year, Admiral Yost.
The current chapter president is Kent Lloyd, former deputy undersecretary for management at the Department of Education. The vice presidents are David and Laurel Ferrel in Maryland and Brian and Sue Swinton in Virginia.
Lew Cramer, who came to Washington nearly four years ago as a White House Fellow and now serves in the Department of Commerce as deputy assistant secretary for technology, said one cannot work in Washington without being reminded that he or she "walks in the footsteps of giants like Reed Smoot and Ezra Taft Benson."
For Cramer, the BYU Management Society put the Washington experience in perspective by "giving us a sense of community - reminding us that we're not alone."