Cabrera mentioned the need for a professional oath of honor during his first Thunderbird speech, and the idea resonated with students. “We took it as a challenge,” said Thunderbird MBA graduate Jim Samuel ’05, who served as chairman of the student-led Thunderbird Honor Council. “Once this idea began to be discussed within the Honor Council, the onus was on me to take this ahead.”
Laura Libman ’04, who also served on the Honor Council, says Thunderbird was the ideal place to develop an oath based on universal values because the school has such a diverse student body. “The idea of a universal code that all businesspeople around the world could share was just a fascinating nut for us to crack,” she said. “We had students from every continent except Antarctica here that we could bounce the ideas off of, and get input from.”
Thunderbird’s Board of Trustees adopted the oath that emerged from the process on June 2, 2006, and since then more than 2,000 students have sworn to live by its principles. Greg Giauque ’06, a former Honor Council member who helped develop the oath’s language, still keeps a copy of the document on his desk. He recalls the first Thunderbird oath signing ceremony with fondness.
“That was an amazing day when I could look out over that group of students who were graduating,” he said. “People were from India, from Nigeria, from the United States, from France, from Germany – from all over the world – coming together and making a pledge that they would strive to act in a way that would reflect well on themselves, and also on the management profession.”
Thunderbird Professional Oath of Honor Timeline
- September 2002, A Collective Epiphany: Before his appointment as Thunderbird’s ninth president, Ángel Cabrera attends the Global Leaders for Tomorrow Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. During the event, sponsored by the World Economic Forum, Cabrera and his colleagues discuss the fallout of recent corporate scandals. They explore the idea of an oath of honor for management professionals. Cabrera decides to carry the concept to business schools.
- Aug. 1, 2004, A Friendly Environment: Cabrera arrives at Thunderbird as the school’s ninth president. During his first speech as president, he mentions the need for a business school oath. Faculty, staff and students embrace the idea.
- Nov. 9, 2004, The Challenge: During the school’s first Ethics Day, Cabrera challenges students to develop the Thunderbird Professional Oath of Honor. The Thunderbird Honor Council, led by Jim Samuel ’05, assumes leadership of the project. Working with Thunderbird Professor Greg Unruh, the group spends the next several months gathering input and developing the oath’s language.
- December 2005, Signing Ceremony: During commencement activities, graduates voluntarily sign the oath for the first time.
- April 27, 2006, Faculty Support: Thunderbird’s Faculty Senate unanimously approves the oath.
- June 2, 2006, Making History: Thunderbird’s Board of Trustees unanimously approves the Oath, making Thunderbird the world’s first business school to formally adopt a professional oath of honor. During the next several months, the school works to integrate the oath into its application process, curriculum and graduation ceremony.
- 2008, Global Movement: Thunderbird’s oath gains wider recognition in the aftermath of a global economic collapse.
- May 14, 2009, Standing Together: Graduating Thunderbird students stand and recite the oath for the first time during a commencement ceremony. The school repeats the tradition at all subsequent graduations.
- 2010, One Voice: Thunderbird President Ángel Cabrera teams with three Harvard business professors to form The Oath Project. The group works to coordinate multiple oath initiatives at business schools and other organizations around the world.
- 2011, Leadership Roles: The Oath Project emerges as a nonprofit organization. Thunderbird President Ángel Cabrera volunteers as a founding board member, Thunderbird Professor Greg Unruh volunteers as a founding Advisory Council member, and Thunderbird graduate Debra Wheat ’10 serves as the organization’s first executive director. Thunderbird’s Lincoln Center for Ethics in Global Management provides a base for Wheat to work on campus.
|Video: Thunderbird Students Recite the Oath (1:01)||Video: We All Speak the Same Language (0:30)|
|Video: Why the Thunderbird Oath? (2:14)||Video: An Oath for Millennials (2:02)|