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Fall 2014 Distinguished Speaker Series off to a fast start

Nathan Savage

Students and WVU employees alike found inspiration at the two B&E Distinguished Speaker Series events this month.

The Fall 2014 edition of the series began with Nathan Savage, a WVU MBA alumnus who serves as senior vice president and group leader for Oil and Gas Midstream Solutions within the Savage Companies.

Although Savage Companies is a privately owned family business, Savage explained to the crowd that his decision to work there did not come natural to him. However, he was drawn in by the values that his family’s company held. He shared these important values that have shaped him and contributed to his career success with the crowd.

“Integrity is the most important attribute of leadership there is,” Savage said, noting that the values of humility and stewardship are not far behind. 

“At Savage, no one works  for anyone. We work together,” he said. “I bristle when I hear the word ‘ownership.’ I don’t look at it as ownership. I look at it as stewardship. It’s about giving back, it’s about helping others. The bridges we build for others are the ones we cross ourselves.”

Savage stressed the importance of continual learning throughout one’s career.

“If we are teachable, we can be a lot better tomorrow than we are today,” he said.

Only five days later, students heard words of wisdom from William C. Foote, retired chairman and CEO of USG Corporation and former chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. USG is a multi-billion dollar manufacturer and distributor of high-performance building systems for construction markets. The infamous Warren Buffet once said that Foote’s efforts were the “most successful managerial performance in bankruptcy that I’ve ever seen.”

William Foote

Foote talked at great length about leadership and the role it plays in a successful business career.

“For a leader, life is their career,” he said. “Leading people is serving people. It is extremely important to serve your employees, customers and shareholders. You need to lead them to a better spot.”

He described attributes of good leadership, such as transparency, candor, confidence, character, personal growth and humility.

“Once trust is broken, it’s broken,” Foote said. 
He also talked at length about how networking benefits students and that they should always be on the lookout for what might be opportunities in disguise.

“You already may have had an experience in your life that presented an opportunity to you. Opportunity knocks when you least expect it,” he said. Later he added, “It’s not a career ladder. It’s a lattice. Build a network, a web.”

The WVU College of Business and Economics Distinguished Speaker Series features deans, entrepreneurs, company presidents, executives and other business leaders from all over the world. The presence of these great minds on the University campus sparks ideas and encourages conversation and debate among students, faculty, alumni, the University community and other friends of the College. Through these events, students have access to stories and valuable lessons from accomplished individuals who can serve as role models.