Brett Jewkes sat in Olin Hall 101 observing Babson College students make their final presentations for a unique, new sports business course inspired by Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98 and his core values.
Jewkes—the EVP, chief brand and communications officer for the Blank Family of Businesses and AMB Sports & Entertainment—wasn’t planning on taking notes, but he continually found himself jotting down ideas, action items, and connection points for his fellow Blank executives.
Listening to Teddy Sourlis ’22 describe the impact of the course—including a weeklong trip to Atlanta to meet executives and see Blank’s values in action—on his nonprofit, Men’s Mental, Jewkes wrote simply, “This is why we did the book.”
Jewkes was a driving force in persuading Blank to share his core values and his vision for values-based leadership in his 2020 book, Good Company. The book served as inspiration for Babson’s Good Company, Good Game course, a product of his historic $50 million gift to establish The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
“To have (Sourlis) speak so eloquently about why the values mattered and to have that experience where he can see them living and breathing in our businesses, that’s why we did that,” Jewkes said. “That was really moving and powerful.”
As one of the people responsible for crafting the message for Blank’s businesses, including the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, Jewkes perhaps spends as much time with Blank as anyone on his executive team. He has seen firsthand the power of Blank’s values-based leadership, and he knows how much Blank appreciates its impact on Babson students. That’s why he flew from Atlanta ahead of a busy September sports weekend.
“It is a blessing for me to get to know this Babson community through Arthur,” Jewkes said. “I love this place. It is a really unique community, and the campus is gorgeous. If I get an opportunity to come to Babson, I’m coming.”
Following the student presentations, Jewkes sat down with Babson Thought & Action to discuss Good Company, values-based leadership, and Babson’s role.
What was it like to work with Mr. Blank on Good Company?
“As we made the decision to write the book and went through the process with a publisher and a co-author, Arthur started to feel the potential of the impact, and therefore, he was so generous with his time. I think people who know how much Arthur puts into our businesses and foundation would be shocked to know just how much time he put into Good Company, because he wanted it to be right. He never wrote it for book sales; he wrote it for impact, and particularly impact on college students, business students, future leaders. That was his whole focus from the start. It was a real privilege to be there to hear the stories, and he was just so generous with sharing them.”
“They are getting a world-class education at Babson, and they are going to go out and make a difference. … That’s meeting (Arthur Blank’s) goal to help build values-driven leaders.”
Brett Jewkes, EVP, chief brand and communications officer for the Blank Family of Businesses and AMB Sports & Entertainment
What has been the reaction to the book and the overall impact of the lessons and values he imparts?
“He has received so many cards and letters, and the reviews are amazing, and that’s important. But I think what is really valuable is what we have seen and heard, especially from the Babson students, because his real goal at the start was how do we help shape the next generation of leaders to lead with values when they are in business or government or academia or the nonprofit sector. The thing that really lights him up is when a student says, ‘This meant something to me, and this has made me pivot how I’m going to think about my career or how I ultimately lead the business.’ Hopefully, if it plays a small part in creating 1,000 Arthur Blanks, the world would be a much different, better place.”
What are your impressions of the students, particularly the week that you met with them in Atlanta, and then seeing their presentations?
“Arthur’s philanthropy is very purposeful, and we are really engaged with the partners to solve problems, to heal the world. I wish he would have been in that room today because that is what he’s driving for. There are 18 young adults who are going to be leaders. They are getting a world-class education at Babson, and they are going to go out and make a difference. I think Arthur has always seen that these young people—from their upbringing, from their families, from their early experience here at Babson—have built that ethos to care about leading differently, leading with purpose, leading to do good in the world. For philanthropists like Arthur, their role is to be a catalyst. That was impactful for me to see that Arthur’s grant, Arthur’s book, Arthur’s hospitality in opening our doors to these young students is fulfilling his goal. That’s meeting his goal to help build values-driven leaders. It’s happening, and that’s really inspiring to all of us in his businesses and foundation.”
As someone who lives and experiences Mr. Blank’s core values, what is it like to see those values spread into young leaders’ lives?
“There are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the world right now, but I left that classroom after seeing those presentations hopeful that we are going to be OK. This generation, and these young people in particular, are going to go out, and they are going to approach their careers with a much kinder heart, with greater empathy. Think if we had that in our politics today; think if we had that in almost every aspect of our lives right now. That was powerful and inspiring and just left me with a lot of hope. That was really cool to experience.”
“He cares a lot about Babson, and it will always hold a special part in his heart.”
Brett Jewkes on Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98
What role is Babson, and especially Babson students, playing now to help Mr. Blank’s objective to shape the next generation of leaders?
“He cares a lot about Babson, and it will always hold a special part in his heart, which is obviously what led to the grant, which has led to a lot of the work we have done together, whether it is bringing our executives to campus or having people visiting West Creek to work on big issues and problems. I think he goes to bed at night very comfortable that Babson is the right partner on a lot of things, because he knows what Babson is about. He knows what the students are all about. He knows that—from the administration, to the faculty, to the staff, to the students—there is a right orientation on what is most important, and the values align with our businesses. So, to have those students visit Atlanta, and have a really immersive experience in all of our businesses and the foundation, and have personal, one-on-one time with our leadership team, part of giving back is investing in the next generation. Every time we have a chance to share our knowledge, to share our experience, to help people understand how the values can translate into running these businesses, we are going to sign up for that, especially with Babson.”
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