Kansas University's International Center for Ethics in Business is about to get a new name.
If its co-founder can find another million dollars.
"We're halfway there," said Joe Reitz, the center's co-director and professor of business, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.
Reitz has been transitioning in recent years from instructor and researcher to fundraiser, part of his effort to build a $2 million endowment for the center that he and Richard De George, distinguished professor of philosophy, established in 1991.
The center will be renamed for the late Bob Billings, a fellow KU student with Reitz back in the 1950s. Reitz described Billings as being much more than a 4.0 student, president of the student body and captain of the men's basketball team; he also went on to be the lead owner of Alvamar Inc. and the main visionary behind the development of much of western Lawrence.
Through the years, Billings always conducted his work in a positive manner, with a genuine regard for the community's interests, Reitz said. That formed the basis of a plan to honor the man considered to be a friend by many, and whose contributions touched and assisted many more.
"He's just done so much for Lawrence and the community, and for the university," Reitz said. "And a lot of that was at his expense. What he accomplished came with patience and persistence and personal sacrifice. That's why I want to do it."
Donations are being accepted to support a number of efforts at the center, including the endowment of student scholarships and financing of research in business ethics. Reitz also is working with a potential donor interested in supporting the activities of the School of Business' Honor Council and Honor Court, which enforces the Honor Code that was envisioned by Reitz, is administered by students and whose recommendations for punishment are approved by the dean.
For information about donations, contact Joe Reitz at (785) 864-7580 or Greg Lamb, at the Kansas University Endowment Association, at (785) 832-7462 or (800) 444-4201.
"The recommendations have always been backed up 100 percent," Reitz said.
Reitz's only frustration: He's finding that many potential donors are reluctant to contribute money to the ethics center, often for reasons associated with Kansas Athletics Inc.
Some donors say they no longer will donate any money to the university, citing their disgust for the donations-for-points system employed for athletics tickets, Reitz said. Others, however, say they only will donate to athletics, because that's the best way to get points and, therefore, the best seats at KU games.
"I offer them front-row seats at the next Sutton Lecture, but that's the best I can do," Reitz said, shaking his head, citing the annual ethics lecture sponsored by the business school.