Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank, visited Austin College on February 25, speaking with faculty, students, staff, and guests in a campus-wide convocation, followed by an evening lecture hosted by Austin College at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas.
Yunus, recipient of the 2010 Austin College Posey Leadership Award, pioneered microcredit and founded Grameen Bank as part of an effort to create a world without poverty. His innovative banking program provides mainly poor women with small low-interest, non-collateral loans to launch businesses that help lift their families out of poverty. Widely successful, the program has spread to every continent since its founding more than 30 years ago and benefited more than 100 million families.
During his campus visit, Yunus met current Austin College students who have interned at the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, including Rachel Dodd of Austin, Texas; Adnan Merchant of Colleyville, Texas; John Mark Purcell of St. Petersburg, Russia; and Redwanul Hoque of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Yunus was pleased to meet the interns, saying that he often criticizes academic institutions because they are isolated within their own boundaries. “Their life is about their textbooks,” Yunus said. “Life is not textbooks. Textbooks try to imitate life. Imitation is not real; imitation is false. To get used to real life, you have to cross those boundary lines and be with people. And I’m very happy and very impressed with the attention that your college pays in getting students out to see the world.”
During the Eisemann lecture, Yunus continued his discussion of the need to help people out of poverty and offered an alternate economic model of social business. “In the whole capitalist system, business means business to make money,” he said. “Not only that, but profit maximization is the only goal. Human being are not one-dimensional. In economic theory, we’ve created a human that is one-dimensional. Human beings are also selfless beings. We want to help people, too; but that isn’t about economics.”
In social business, Yunus said, return is about happiness and not caring what the theoreticians say. “Think of a problem and design a business to solve a problem,” he encouraged. “Being small does not mean it is insignificant, because you are making a seed. That’s what nature does—nature does not plant trees, it makes seeds. Make a seed, and plant it everywhere, and it becomes a forest. The same thing can be true of a social business.”
The Austin College Posey Leadership Award was created through the generosity of Sally and the late Lee Posey, founder of Palm Harbor Homes, and supports the Austin College mission to promote service and leadership in a global context. Previous recipients include Wendy Kopp (2006), founder of Teach For America; Dr. Paul Farmer (2007), noted Harvard physician and medical activist, and subject of Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains; Geoffrey Canada (2008), president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone; and Greg Mortenson (2009), whose efforts to establish schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan are chronicled in the best-selling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools.
Greg Mortenson, the 2009 award recipient, returned to Texas on February 6, presenting two lectures hosted by Austin College at the Eisemann Center as part of the 2010 Posey Leadership Award series. More than 3,000 individuals attended the Eisemann lectures by Mortenson and Yunus.
Sponsors for the 2010 speaker series included Ben E. Keith Co., The Dallas Morning News, Goldman Sachs, Lucy Billingsley and Chiapas International, the Abby and Todd Williams Family Foundation, Stan and Judy Woodward, Palm Harbor Homes, Austin Industries, Bank of Texas, Dr. and Mrs. Fazlur Rahman, the Dick and Tory Agnich Family Foundation, Mary Anne and Jim Harris, Dennis Gonier, Page Southerland Page, Wes Moffett, Robert Johnson, the Harold Simmons Foundation, Becky and Larry Sykes, Waldman Bros Insurance, Jim Hartnett, the Dallas Foundation, Libby and Rusty Goff, Betty and Ray Stephens, Ola Foktasek, Ann Ross, Steve Lipscomb, Mr. and Mrs. Cappy McGarr, Naomi Aberly, Mr. Rick Andrew and Mrs. Diane Buchanan, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Krause, Mr. and Mrs. Rex Thompson, and Linda Tycher. Bank of Texas was a sponsor for the campus events in Sherman.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.