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May 11, 2004

PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Delivers Leighton Lecture:
Doing What is Right Benefits Public, Company, Self

"In our economy, trust equals value," said Dennis Nally, the 2004 Leighton Lecturer and chairman and senior US partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Mr. Nally delivered the Leighton Lecture on Leadership and Ethics to students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the College of Business in early May. Dean Avijit Ghosh introduced Nally, calling him a giant in his profession.

A member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Nally opened by speaking directly to the students in the audience, encouraging them to remember that their years at the University give them "the opportunity to explore issues and ask any question without consequences." When they have entered their profession, Nally urged graduates to keep asking questions and to have the courage "to look silly, be wrong, and be right."

The business scandals of the last eighteen months created significant challenges for the accounting profession, resulting in regulatory measures, most notably The Sarbannes-Oxley Act of 2002, enacted to ensure high ethical standards within the industry. "There is absolute clarity about who we work for," Nally said. "We're here to serve the interests of the investing public."

Throughout his speech, Nally reiterated the importance of individual responsibility. "I learned firsthand that having the courage to do what you think is right will always serve you well." PwC professionals, under Nally's leadership, are working hard to establish shareholder trust. The firm has a new initiative, called Standing Firm on Quality, to shine a spotlight on those staff members who stood their ground and demonstrated courage, even when doing so may have cost the firm a client. And, said Nally, there is no shortage of people nominated for the weekly honor. He calls what they do "navigating the grey" and noted that employees at PwC are never alone in their quest to do the right thing.

He ended his presentation with recommendations to the undergraduates and graduate students in attendance. He urged them to assume leadership roles in their companies and to remember that they don't yet know all they need to know, advocating making time to grow and learn after graduation. And, in his strongest pitch for individual ethics and accountability, he said that "the responsibility for what you do rests with you."

Nally was on campus to celebrate a major investment by PricewaterhouseCoopers in the College of Business and the Department of Accountancy. PwC has made a $5 million donation to the campus, half in cash and half in dedicated partner time to collaborate with the College and Department by developing Chicago-based initiatives over the next five years. Every partner at PwC who is a University of Illinois graduate donated his or her money as part of the gift. Their contributions were supplemented by PwC.

PwC will collaborate with the College to develop, sponsor, and offer various programs for the Chicago business community, accounting students, faculty and alumni. Among these programs are workshops and seminars on emerging accounting and finance issues, alumni activities to strengthen connectivity with Chicago-based graduates, a mentoring program for student leaders of College of Business organizations, and programs aimed at attracting a more diverse student population to the accounting profession. The cash contribution portion of the donation will be used to support the Accountancy Student Center to be located in a new instructional facility planned at the College of Business. The Center is intended to serve as a home for accountancy students throughout their campus experience as well as after they complete their degree.

A graduate of Western Michigan University, Dennis Nally has been with PwC since 1974. He has completed executive programs at Columbia University and The Pennsylvania State University.


Dennis Nally, chairman and senior US partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


Jay Henderson, PwC managing partner, Richard Leighton, and Dennis Nally meet before Nally delivers the Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership.


Dennis Nally delivered his lecture to a packed house in the Levis Faculty Center on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.


College of Business Dean Avijit Ghosh, PwC Chairman Dennis Nally, and U of I Provost Richard Herman signed the agreement formalizing the PwC gift to the College and the Department of Accountancy.

More photos are online!

--Ashleigh Johnson and Ginny Hudak-David
May 2004