Paul Newman at Haas

Butch Cassidy and the Berkeley Haas Vision

It was Paul Newman - the late movie star, race car driver, philanthropist and founder of Newman's Own salad dressings - who helped usher in the modern era of Berkeley Haas as a leader in corporate social responsibility.

It started in 2000, when Newman had become almost as famous for his vinaigrettes and spaghetti sauces - and for giving 100 percent of the profits to charity --as for his roles in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting.

Newman's Own, which the actor had started with a friend in 1982, had become a huge success and had donated about $100 million by that time to philanthropic causes.

But Newman wanted to set a higher bar for corporate social responsibility and ethics. As it happened, his goals coincided with those of Laura Tyson, then the Dean of Berkeley Haas and now director of its Institute on Business and Social Impact.

Tyson had just launched the Global Social Venture Competition, with funding from Goldman Sachs, which offered start-up money and mentoring to pioneering social ventures.Next on her drawing board: a center to foster social responsible leadership in for-profit corporations.

At Tyson's invitation, Newman came to Berkeley Haas in September 2000 to inaugurate the school's Forum on Corporate Philanthropy.

Speaking to a riveted audience, Newman disputed the widespread idea that the only purpose of a business was to maximize profit.

"If they are very, very fortunate to have a profitable business, why would they object to making an investment in the community?" he said."I don't look at it as philanthropy.I look at those dollars as investments in the community that allows them to function."

Newman's speech was just the start of his involvement. Less than one year later, Enron and a long list of other major corporations were crumbling under the weight of epic accounting and business scandals.

Berkeley Haas leaders ramped up plans for a new center that would focus on corporate ethics and social responsibility.

It was a controversial idea. Many experts, in industry and academia, insisted that social and environmental goals would simply undermine business competitiveness and ultimately economic growth.

Paul Newman was there.In 2002, he and Haas alumnus Michael Homer, MBA8,1 each contributed $500,000 to launch what is now the Center for Responsible Business.Newman's contribution created the John C. Whitehead Distinguished Fellowship, which funded the salary of the center's founding director, Kellie McElhaney.

Today, the center and Berkeley Haas operate a sweeping array of programs to address the world's hardest social and environmental challenges.But Paul Newman was here at the start.

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Actor/business founder Paul Newman speaks at the Haas School with then-Dean Laura Tyson about the social impact of firms.   (Sept. 7, 2000)