The Orange Catholic Foundation Conference on Business & Ethics drew nearly 1,000 attendees and 82 sponsors to the Anaheim Hilton on March 4, raising $300,000 in support of tuition assistance for the neediest of the Diocese of Orange’s 19,000 students.
Bishop Kevin Vann thanked participants for their generosity, saying that Catholic schools “open doors, bring faith and make contributions to our communities.” Bishop Vann shared the story of a grandmother who told him that tuition assistance helped her grandson, who struggles with ADHD, attend St. Polycarp School, calling his education there “the answer to my prayers.”
Keynote speakers were Wing Lam, CEO and co-founder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco, and Most Reverend Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The Catholic Church’s social teachings about capitalism were the topic of Bishop Barron’s keynote address. “Every single pope in the church has affirmed the most central element of the market economy: private property,” he said. “Private property is grounded in the dignity and freedom of the individual. Private property allows the diffusion of power, not concentration in the hands of a few. The Church likes the entrepreneurial spirit.” Yet the popes have noted that because God made the world for everyone, the common good must be uppermost in the minds of capitalist Christians.
Lam shared how he developed character and survival skills as the smallest child on his school’s water polo team. Today he operates 65 restaurants and said that giving back to his community by fighting hunger, providing educational opportunities for kids and teaching marketing at Chapman University are the right things to do. “My word is my reputation,” Lam said. “If I can’t shake your hand and instead need a contract, I won’t do business with you. In 27 years in the action sports and food industries, I’ve never signed a contract.”
Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., retired president of Gonzaga University, founder of seven major national institutions and nationally recognized scholar and author, was honored with the Farmers & Merchants Lifetime Achievement Award at the 14th annual event. “I’ve been blessed with a great relationship with God, my family and many friends,” Father Spitzer said when receiving the honor. “I’ve been blessed with different opportunities in life and with people who love God and God who loves people.”
The Bishop’s Award for Exemplary Business Integrity was presented to two prominent Orange County Catholic business leaders – Marie Gray and Rand Sperry.
Internationally known fashion designer Marie Gray, co-founder of St. John Knits and Grayse, was introduced via videotape by her daughter and business partner Kelly Gray as “a woman who gives back to church and community.”
Marie Gray – who was born in Serbia and had a successful modeling career prior to developing her $400 million design company – said she shared the award “with all the employees who have spent a lifetime helping us live our dream.”
Via videotape, Rosemary Sperry introduced her husband, honoree Rand Sperry, co-founder of Sperry Equities, as “a man who gets up every morning and doesn’t stop until it’s all done.” Sperry’s business partner Burton Young noted, “Rand is a person with a strong moral compass. He keeps his faith in the forefront in business and lets his conscience be his guide.”
Sperry thanked his late mother and father for sending him to Catholic schools, and recognized the sacrifice they made in order to do so. “It was ingrained in us to work hard, work smart and not expect a handout,” Sperry recalled. “I learned to be a good, religious, moral and ethical person.”