Serious business in the nation’s capital
Leave it to Legatus members to change the course of history.
The Catholic University of America’s incredibly popular business program — led by Legatus members — grew into a full-fledged business school in 2013. Now the school is taking another bold step in its offering of authentically Catholic business formation.
In May, CUA received a $15 million gift from the Tim and Steph Busch Family Foundation. The Busches are longtime members of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter. Their gift is the largest single donation in the university’s 129-year history. Five other donors brought the total to $47 million. The funds will help grow CUA’s business school, which has been re-named The Tim and Steph Busch School of Business and Economics.
Tim Busch is the founder and CEO of Pacific Hospitality Group, which operates a group of luxury hotels. He also founded the Napa Institute and The Busch Firm, a law firm in Irvine, Calif.
The Busches say they chose CUA because they believe in the school’s mission.
“I’ve been on the board of Catholic University for the past 12 years,” Tim Busch said. “In the beginning I didn’t know much about it. But the more I became aware of the school and its mission, the more I got enthused.”
Catholic University will use the funds to renovate Maloney Hall, which will house the business school. The money will also help develop new academic programs in the school, including an Institute on Human Ecology.
CUA always had a business department, but in the last decade the department saw explosive growth. More than 700 of CUA’s 4,000 undergraduates now major in business.
“In 2010, the department was growing like something out of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” said CUA president John Garvey, a member of Legatus’ chapter in Washington, D.C. “We could not contain the students. It seemed appropriate to build a school for them. Other Catholic universities have business programs, but I don’t know if they integrate faith and finance in the way that we do.”
In a secular Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, students learn to maximize profit. A few schools have elective courses on ethics. But when CUA founded its business school in 2013, the goal was to turn business education on its head by integrating Catholic social teaching in every class, Garvey explained.
“Ignorance of rules is not the primary reason for misdirection in business,” he said. “We need to focus on guiding the students to becoming better people who instinctively make better moral judgments. Aristotle says that virtue is a habit, a practice that becomes second nature. We need to train people thoroughly, and this can’t happen by only taking one course.”
William Bowman, dean of the business school, remembers what happened when Enron — one of the world’s largest energy companies — collapsed in 2001 because of unethical accounting practices.
“After the Enron scandal, a priest friend of mine — Fr. Michael Barrett — said, ‘What about business ethics?’ He had been a stockbroker and had a real understanding of the business world, but he also knew about Church teaching. He led me to read several encyclicals dealing with the free market system,” Bowman explained.
Bowman, a member of Legatus’ DC Chapter, spent several years studying Church teaching on business and economics.
“This is a very new area, looking at business through the Catholic lens,” he said.
One of the biggest contributions to this field comes from Andrew Abela, CUA’s provost and founding dean of the business school. Abela spent three years researching every papal encyclical, Vatican II document, and papal speech on business. In 2009, his findings were published in A Catechism for Business. The book answers 100 tough ethical questions for business leaders.
Philosophy and theology are the foundation of the university’s business school curriculum. Students can expect to read several encyclicals like Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, Pope St. John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus and Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. They study the themes of subsidiarity, solidarity, virtue, entrepreneurship and human ecology.
“So it’s not just about accounting and finance,” Busch explained. “We want students to understand why we do what we do.”
A higher standard
Steph Busch, a business partner with her husband, decries the theological drift in many of the country’s Catholic colleges.
“There is so much liberal teaching in universities,” she said. “It’s out on a limb and it doesn’t speak to mainstream society. We hope that CUA’s business school can change the rhetoric. Students need the right formation.”
The Busch School also wants to become a center for sharing “best practices” in the world of Catholic business.
“We bring in Catholic businessmen and women to talk about what their faith has to do with their work,” Garvey said. “Turnout from the students has been overwhelming.”
In the long term, CUA wants its business students to learn what it means to be good stewards who can serve society and the common good. Once the school graduates students with doctorates, these leaders can influence future businessmen and women.
“We realized that a professor in a business school can impact 100,000 students in his or her lifetime,” Tim Busch explained. “The school’s mission is to impact how people think.”
Although there are some elements in the Catholic Church critical of the free market system, the Busches point out that Catholic social teaching reveals that business is a force for good when done right.
“We are all called to co-create with God,” Tim Busch said. “Handouts will always be necessary as a safety net for the poorest of the poor, but at the end of the day, it’s better to teach someone how to fish than just to hand them a fish.”
The Busch family is serious about the idea that business people have a responsibility to give back to society.
“Capitalism is in trouble because of this attitude among some to take all that they can as long as it’s legal,” he said. “We want to develop a higher standard than just profit, even though profit is important.”
Tim and Steph Busch firmly believe that a business can be ethically run, treat its employees and customers with dignity, be profitable and give back to society.
“I give credit to Legatus,” Busch said. “It has really formed us. Through it, we have really deepened our formation in the faith and how it relates to work.”
SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.
Learn More: business.cua.edu
Growing a business school at CUA
The Catholic University of America’s Busch School of Business and Economics offers an undergraduate degree in business. Graduate students can earn a master’s degree in one of five business programs: Master of Science in Business Analysis, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Arts in Integral Economic Development Management, and Master of Arts in Integral Economic Policy Development.
The university hopes to offer an MBA and a doctoral program in the future. A post-doctoral fellowship begins this fall on how to teach business as a force for good. —Ferrisi.