NEW YORK — Atop General Electric's Rockefeller Center on Thursday, the Palo Alto-based Business Enterprise Trust bestowed five awards on an eclectic collection of business innovators at a ceremony that reflected the touch of its founder, film and television producer Norman Lear.
Hosted by television commentator Bill Moyers, the second annual award ceremony told stories in fast-paced video presentations of business activists who have demonstrated what the organization calls "exemplary business behavior," often overcoming bureaucratic opposition in the process.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 7, 1992 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Column 3 Financial Desk 2 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
General Electric--A story in Friday's editions erroneously described the Business Enterprise Trust awards as being given "a top General Electric's Rockefeller Center." The awards were held in GE's skyscraper in the Rockefeller Center. Also, award winner Gun Denhart was mistakenly identified in a headline as a man.
Award recipients include:
* Gun Denhart, chief executive of Hanna Andersson of Portland, Ore., a $35-million children's clothing mail-order firm, for creating a program that encourages customers to return used clothing for credit. The clothing is then donated to needy children, mainly at centers for battered families.
* Four black and women employees of Inland Steel Industries of Chicago, and one white male executive, who pushed through a program of expanded opportunities for women and minorities. According to the manager, Steven J. Bowsher, the energy unleashed by the workplace-diversity program ended up revitalizing a money-losing division, Ryerson Coil Processing, to the point where it is now profitable.
* Rick Surpin, creator and president of a company in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx that hires former welfare recipients and trains them to provide home health care. More than half the 240 employees of Cooperative Home Care Associates now own a piece of the company. Imitators have sprung up in Oakland; Waterbury, Conn., and Philadelphia.
* Prudential Insurance Co. of America, the nation's largest life insurer, for developing the "living needs benefit," which enables terminally ill policyholders to collect life-insurance benefits before they die, in order to allay expenses. The program was the brainchild of Prudential President Ron D. Barbaro, who accepted the award. Today the rider is offered by 125 life insurance companies; current estimates suggest that 60% of all Americans may qualify for the benefit at some time in their lives. Barbaro described a dual struggle: to overcome opposition from within because the plan violated 100 years of tradition and to win approval from 50 state insurance regulatory bodies.
* J. Irwin Miller, former chairman of Cummins Engine in Columbus, Ind., for commitment to responsible business practices and for addressing critical national and international issues.
Lear said in an interview that the idea for the organization grew out of his musings that while most American institutions have lost authority, business still exerts a profound impact on families, children, communities and the American way of life.
He called upon a host of corporate, labor and academic leaders to join him in founding an organization to identify acts of courage, integrity and social vision in business and use those examples to promote greater business responsibility.
The trust's board includes retired Johnson & Johnson Chairman James E. Burke, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren E. Buffett, Washington Post Chairman Katharine Graham, Levi Strauss Chairman Walter A. Haas Jr., Claremont University Center President John D. Maguire and Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive John A. Young, among others.
Lear is chairman of Act III Communications, which is involved in motion picture and television production, publishing and broadcasting. His latest movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes," is a critical, if not commercial, success. A new prime-time television series titled "The Powers That Be" debuts Saturday night.