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A Matter of Ethics 

Pittsburgh -- After more than two decades climbing the ladder, Rande Somma ’73 was named president of North American operations for a Fortune 100 Detroit auto parts supplier, a $17billion operation. He called a meeting, and told the staff their first action would be to write down a list of things they would not do to succeed. “When you firewall illegitimate means of reaching an end, you now place 100 percent of the burden on your competence and skill and your talent, and the kind of organizational culture you create, the kind of people you surround yourself with, how you approach the business,” he says. “It changes everything.”

Pressure from Wall Street makes it challenging to stay committed to ethical behavior, says Somma, now a private industry consultant and vice chairman of Tower Automotive. But it’s imperative, he believes. So he established the Rande and Georgia Somma Integrity First Scholarships, $2,500 awards given annually to the four RMU business students who write the best essays analyzing moral or ethical issues in a businesscase study.

This year, applications are due April 22. Four grants will be awarded for the fall of 2010. For an application and eligibility requirements click here.

“When people start hearing me talk about being ethical and integrity being critical when it comes to being a legitimately competent leader, people start to think that I’m some sort of prophet of righteousness. And they want to know, `Doesn’t the profitability matter?’ Yes, but that’s why I’m doing it this way. Profitability matters, but over the long term also,” he says. “Performance matters, but the authenticity of performance matters more.”

(Portions of this story were excerpted from this article in Foundations magazine.)