National Catholic Register

Inperson

The Pulpit of the Corner Office

An executive evangelizes by example, not preaching

BY George Maly

March 21-27, 1999 Issue | Posted 3/21/99 at 1:00 AM

 

High finance, high technology, and classic cars have been some of the accouterments of George Maly's life in the fast lane. He's been an insurance company executive, a developer of sophisticated industry software and now works as a consultant to corporate heads. To these distinctions, the Indianapolis member of the Catholic executives group Legatus has added another: a determination to allow the faith to penetrate his daily life, in order to evangelize the work-place by example. Has it worked? Recently, he spoke with Register correspondent Jim Malerba.

Malerba: You take the application of your faith to your business life very seriously. What accounts for your zeal?

Maly: First of all, I went to parochial schools, but our parish church had an abundance of priests who became great role models for me. That was important, because my father was killed in a hunting accident when I was 4 years old. I had a loving mother and family, but it was the influence of those priests that built the moral and ethical foundation that has been with me all my life. We also had missionaries who came to our church to talk about their work, and they were a great inspiration to me, as well.

How has that been manifested in your life?

Sure, I was mentored by good examples. My involvement in both Serra International and Legatus came about as a result of what those priests did for me. I see it all as a continuation of what I saw in my formative years. I now, in turn, mentor young people who need help. I am hopeful they look to me as their role model, and that I have made a positive difference in their lives.

What help do you have as you try to live your faith?

Legatus is a dynamic organization for chief executive officers and presidents of companies. Equally important, it's for couples, not just the CEO himself or herself. Tom Monaghan, who built Domino's Pizza into an international chain, founded Legatus in 1987. I found out about it in 1988 and phoned Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the main office is located. The funny thing was, I already knew Tom Monaghan through a classic-car club I was a member of. I flew out to Ann Arbor for a retreat, and then became a member-at-large. Then, Tom asked me to form an Indiana chapter. That became only the second or third in the nation. Pat Rooney, another insurance company executive, was the co-founder.

How does Legatus impact your business life?

Remember, CEOs have a tremendous responsibility in their companies, and they carry a lot of weight. They are role models for better or for worse. By their attitude, they can impose upon the business world a tremendous amount of their own values structure. The same thing is true in their personal lives, such as their relationships with their wives and children. We must always be mindful of this. When we are out there, we are always cognizant of our Catholic values in every aspect of our lives.

GEORGE MALY

Personal: Married to Bette-Jane, who also is active in Legatus; five children and six grandchildren; family once raced cars at the Indianapolis 500.

Background: Graduate of Purdue University and the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania; Air Force officer from 1945 to 1956.

Professional: Formerly owned an insurance agency; developed sophisticated software for a major American auto manufacturer that performed insurance payment surveillance; president of National Underwriters Inc. from 1960 to 1968; was a leader in bringing the Indianapolis Colts football team to the city from Baltimore.

That must be difficult. Sometimes even the pace of the world seems to make that impossible.

We also try to practice this in our marriages, because chief executive officers, because of their power base, have a problem with marriages. They have a very high divorce rate. By concentrating on spiritual and family values, they attain a degree of role modeling in the workplace and in the home. Incidentally, the word “Legatus” means ambassador, and that's what we try to be — ambassadors of faith, good morals and ethics.

Have you seen fruits from your efforts to be a better Catholic in the business world?

Oh, yes. I've seen Legatus members become closer in their marriage, and I've seen CEOs become more active not only in the Church, but also as role models for Christian values.

I remember one couple who joined a Legatus chapter and at the time were pro-choice.

Over time, by studying more about the faith, they concluded being pro-choice was not in any way a Christian value. They changed their values tremendously and became more spiritual.

There is a tremendous degree of evangelization here through role modeling, but it's done in a very subtle way. We don't actively seek converts; rather, we show our beliefs and values through the way we lead our lives.

You also work with Serra International, which promotes vocations to the priesthood — a very different life from the business world. What do your two activities have in common?

In answering that one, let me begin by saying that in so secular a culture, such as ours, religion is not seen as a priority in life. It's something that's “nice” to have, but it's not a key ingredient.

The problem there is that parents want their kids to become doctors, lawyers or other professionals that pay a lot of money.

But some dioceses and orders are flourishing in their vocations.

Yes, and the ones experiencing this appear to be those that have an exacting discipline that you saw years ago in the Church

There is something held out to die for and be proud of or be disciplined for in terms of our relationship with God. Then, there also is something that instills in a person's soul the spirit of a vocation.

I also see that in our culture today. There is a yearning for the truth, even among people who are not necessarily religious. In society, what is the “truth” today might not be the truth tomorrow. All of us are instilled with a sense of the divine. We yearn for God, and we yearn for truth. When we bounce from one set of moral values to another, the spirit rejects this and says, there must be more to life than this.

Do you expect this disconnect with God to end in the near future?

There will be a time of reflection on what life is truly all about, and the destructive values of the past 30 years or so will be shed for deeper, spiritual values.

And the Church is preparing for this through a new sense of evangelization.

Legatus is just one. I think we're going to see a huge increase in radio stations carrying the Catholic message. As I said, there will be a spike in solid Catholic values and a bringing of truth to our society.

What can be done to ensure that we achieve this change?

First, when you have kids who are truly in love with Christ, in contrast to those who don't know Christ, when they have fun, kids attuned to higher values have a joyful fun. It is through the Holy Spirit that this comes.

For adults?

The best thing people can do is sit back and evaluate their vision for tomorrow.

What is your destiny? What is necessary for you to achieve that destiny, in terms of eternal destiny, or in terms of your destiny with your spouse or in your work?

What are you willing to sacrifice and give?

What value does a faith perspective play in your life?

I believe that if you lead your life with a fixed objective and plan it, you're going to have a greater ability to reach it in a joyful and happy manner.