A KU professor will be honored in the Netherlands along with an African president and a computer king.
South Africa President Nelson Mandela, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Kansas University professor Richard De George have little in common -- yet.
But that will all change Nov. 5, when the three receive honorary doctorates from Nijenrode University in Breukelen, Netherlands.
De George said Wednesday that he was floored by a letter asking whether he would accept the diploma. The letter said Mandela and Gates had agreed to attend the ceremony, which will be part of the university's 50th anniversary celebration of the Netherlands Business School.
"There was no hesitation," said De George, KU distinguished professor of philosophy and an expert in business ethics.
The local hero has difficulty explaining how he ended up in such esteemed company.
"I wish I could," said De George. "It is astonishing that they chose me with the other two ... I feel very honored."
Modesty aside, the university's notification letter said De George was selected "to honor the pioneer role you have played and are playing in the field of business ethics."
He was profiled in the January edition of Business Ethics: A European Review. The article said De George had dominated the field of modern business ethics for more than 30 years.
Gates is chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., a leading provider of software for personal computers worldwide.
He co-founded the company in 1975. The company had net revenue in 1995 of $5.9 billion. Gates' estimated worth -- depending on the stock market -- is nearing $16 billion. That makes him either the richest or second-richest man in the world.
Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994. He was released from prison in 1990 by the government, after serving 27 years of imprisonment for fighting against apartheid.
"I have the highest respect for Mr. Mandela," De George said. "Bill Gates ... has done extraordinary things in the area of business."
De George is a founder and director of KU's International Center for Ethics in Business. It was the first center in the United States to emphasize international aspects of business ethics.
He's been on KU's faculty since 1959 and is a professor of philosophy, Russian and East European studies and business.