The Legacy of Bill Daniels
Updated: May 15, 2020
Here at the University of Denver, we know Bill Daniels as the guy that the business school is named after. We know him for the various plaques and displays around the building, but to the majority of us he is not much more. To the students here, he is a relic of the past. As for the students in our Ethics Fellows program more specifically, he is the Moses of our cause. His list of the eight Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles provides guidance for our education and life at-large.
Born in Greeley, CO in 1920, Bill grew up through the Great Depression. He bounced around as a youngster from Colorado, to Nebraska, Iowa and eventually New Mexico where he entered the New Mexico Military Institute following his parental instruction. He thrived in athletics, playing baseball, football, basketball and boxing. Along the way, he gathered leadership skills and passion for sports and discipline.
In World War II, Bill became a distinguished naval officer. He was honored with the Bronze Star for heroism, courage, and devotion to duty following an attack on the USS Intrepid. He excelled as a fighter pilot on the Pacific Front. He later flew in the Korean conflict and retired from the Navy as a decorated Commander in 1952.
In his return from military service, Bill launched his business career through an insurance agency in Casper, WY. During a trip back from a visit with his family in New Mexico, Bill stopped for lunch at Murphy’s Bar in Denver. Behind the bar was a black and white television, broadcasting a boxing match. This was the first time Bill ever laid eyes on a TV. This inspired him to curb his insurance efforts and launch a cable television firm, Daniels & Associates. Denver became known as the “Cable Capital of the World” after many technology and cable companies followed his vision and leadership to the city. Today he is considered a pioneer in the cable television industry as he focused on the production of sports broadcasting.
Throughout his lengthy business career, Bill made contributions to support his community including contributions to the University of Denver. Bill was not just a check signer, but provided guidance on items that he found integral to education. Alongside his donations, Bill put forth an initiative for the business school to highlight ethics, values, and personal integrity into the curriculum.
Prior to his passing in March of 2000, Bill constructed the groundwork for the Daniels Fund, a foundation that promotes the incorporation of the words he lived by into education. The foundation continues today through the Daniels Fund Grants Program, the Daniels Fund Scholarship Program, and the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative. The foundation provides an active portion of curriculum in educational institutions of all levels across the Rocky Mountain region.
Ethics is a blurry topic. Moral compasses conflict between individuals as well as cultural norms. It seems that everyday, understanding ethics becomes more critical for all decision making. Today, there is corruption at the highest levels of government and corporate institutions alike, which has only been furthered by the rampant virus. On top of that, we are experiencing a spreading lapse between the grounding ideologies of our ancients and the modern practices of progress on earth that is unprecedented. The legacy that Bill Daniels has left for us is an exceptional guide for navigating these unique times and the uncertain circumstances that lay ahead.
The framework he created acts as an ethical basis that can be agreed upon by all before making decisions. Why would you not exercise integrity? Why would you choose not to be accountable, etc.? As we know, ethics is as subjective as deciphering the best item on a menu, but we all can agree that your favorite filet mignon or pasta alfredo is better than a bag of pretzels, even if we love pretzels (which I do). The Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles elevate our approach to decision making so that we all can agree whether it is you, a partner, or even a competitor. It is better for everyone to make decisions that come from a place of integrity, trust, accountability, transparency, fairness, respect, an understanding of the rule of law, and viability than not, no matter how questionable the dilemma is.
Bill Daniels’ incorporation of these principles into education challenges the unethical behavior we see coming out of our modern world. They inspire a universal moral compass that sits inside each and every one of us to all point the same direction. The growth and spread of the Daniels Fund permeates into the decisions that define us, as products of his educational vision. Walking around ‘Daniels’ (as we call the building here), it is a challenge to fathom what it would be like without his contributions to the school. As students here, it would be a mistake to lack admiration for his legacy. This Ethics Fellows program puts us students in the fortunate position where we can spread his meaningful legacy while attaining that education at the same time. As for me, I am looking forward to continuing my exercise of these principles as I begin my professional career this coming June and it is my hope that my peers feel the same.
Danielsfund.org was used in the composition of this blog post.
About the Author:
Doug Peterson is a student of construction management at the Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver Daniels College of Business. He is an incoming Field Engineer at Sundt Construction, a commercial, industrial, and transportation general contractor out of Tempe, AZ. He will be working out of their Tucson office beginning in June of 2020. He is also attaining a minor in Business Ethics and Legal Studies while becoming a Daniels College of Business Ethics Fellow. His favorite aspect of ethics is applying integrity to the work-life balance on a daily basis. Doug has passions for baseball, the Great Outdoors, engineering, and aviation.