Tom & Nancy Sleeman
Tom Sleeman and his wife Nancy have pledged $500,000 to endow a program in leadership training for undergraduate students at the College of Business. The program will start this academic year with a limited number of students and gradually expand until it is serving up to 100 students a year.
“The motivation for this gift is my feeling that it’s important for the College of Business to teach leadership, particularly business leadership with integrity,” said Sleeman, ’54 accountancy, who retired in 1994 as the chief financial officer for Unocal, a major oil and chemical company. “I want to make sure future business leaders know how to lead, but I also want to make sure they lead in the right direction.
“As students, they need to understand that it’s important that they behave with integrity in everything they do. They have to understand that they will be put to the test, and they have to know how to deal with it.
“I’m not sure why, but I think the need for training in ethics is greater than it once was. Some of the things that have happened in the last few years have certainly shown that there is the need for people to understand business ethics. From the time I started my career, until I finished it, I didn’t observe the kinds of things that I’ve observed in the last few years.”
Sleeman also wants future business leaders to be capable of functioning in a global arena where the people with whom they work may have different cultural and ethical values than their own. “I think it’s obvious that the business world gets more complicated all the time,” he said. “It’s a multinational business system now. Business leaders have to understand the intricacies of leading many different kinds of people.”
The leadership program will serve honor students, as well as other students who show leadership potential. Initially, the training will include an overnight off-campus seminar in which students may simulate ethical dilemmas or other situations they could encounter in their careers. Later, the program will include an annual leadership conference organized by seniors who have already completed earlier facets of leadership training.
Sleeman began his career as an accounting trainee with the Pure Oil Co. of Chicago. Pure Oil was absorbed into what later became Unocal, which in turn became part of Chevron last year. As he moved through the ranks, Sleeman served as president of both Unocal’s mining subsidiary and its chemical division, and as the chief financial officer and director of the parent company. Nancy Sleeman had a career as an administrator in a California retirement community.
Sleeman has previously made a number of gifts to the University of Illinois, including the endowed Robert K. Mautz Honorary Scholarship for accountancy students in the College of Business. Also, a joint gift from Sleeman and his late wife June Netzel Sleeman, who died in 1999, created the Joe Sutton Honorary Scholarship in Print Journalism in the College of Communications. June Sleeman was a 1954 journalism graduate. In 2006, Sleeman created the Tom and June Netzel Sleeman Professorship in Business Journalism at the College of Communications.
- Doug McInnis