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Grads work to make difference

Molly Madden | Thursday, October 7, 2010

The original version of this article misquoted what 1981 alumnus Terrence Keeley said about the Financial Hippocratic Oath. Keeley said the Financial Hippocratic Oath is based on the Golden Rule and relates to the relationship between financial service providers and their clients. It has nothing to do with relationships between competitors, as stated in the article. The Observer regrets this error.

When Dr. Daniel Towle was a pre-med student at Notre Dame in the late 1970s, a professor encouraged him to be “more than just a doctor” — advice that changed Towle’s approach to his professional life.

Now, Towle travels to developing countries to provide medical services to people who otherwise might not have access to basic healthcare.

Towle and other alumni shared how they have worked toward the greater good in their various professions at a panel Wednesday entitled “The Professions and the Common Good.”

The panel was one in a series of events for the Notre Dame Forum, which addresses how the global marketplace can be used to further the common good.

Towle, a pediatric anesthesiologist involved in international health services, said he and other alumni wished to inspire students to “walk your own road to make a difference in the world.”

“I firmly believe divine providence will provide you with skills and opportunities that will allow you to live out Notre Dame’s mission,” he said.

For example, after the earthquake in Haiti last year, Towle wanted to fly immediately to the country to help, but that was nearly impossible in the wake of the disaster.

“I went on a run and said a prayer to Mary that if she wanted me to be there, then I would get there,” Towle said. “Literally within an hour, I had a call from a colleague who said he had a private plane with 4,000 pounds of medical supplies bound for Haiti. He asked me if I could leave in 24 hours.”

No matter how many medical missions Towle completes, he said the purpose has to be for reasons solely related to improving the conditions of others.

“We’re not missionaries,” he said. “We’re not there to do something for other people to make ourselves feel better. That would be for my own personal good and not the common good.”

While Towle uses his medical training to make a difference, Daniela Papi, a 2000 graduate of the University, lived in Cambodia and created her own organization to serve the local community.

Papi founded PEPY, an organization that offers expeditions to tourists while educating them on how they can contribute to development in the area. It also funds educational programs for the residents of rural Cambodia.

“As Notre Dame students, you have received the best education the country has to offer,” Papi told the students.

“Until everyone can receive this same opportunity, a country of equality for all is not possible.”

Papi said she created her own business model to serve the needs of the Cambodian community she has come to recognize as her own.

“We need to ask ourselves how we serve the common good through business,” she said. “We do a lot of giving away in the United States, but we need to go a bit further. We need to look at how we do business and we have to improve how we do what we do.”

Papi said the organization gives bike tours to tourists and encourages them to donate to the schools and local community after experiencing it firsthand.

“Our goal is that when they leave, they have changed the way they live and give,” she said.

Terrence Keeley, a 1981 graduate who founded his own sovereign advisory practice, Sovereign Trends, LLC, addressed how the common good can be achieved in a capitalistic system.

One of the first things the world needs to do to move forward from the current financial crisis is stop doubting the current financial system, Keeley said.

“There’s no way we can approach this conversation about the economy and the common good if we don’t place trust in the system,” he said.

Keeley is currently working to establish the Financial Hippocratic Oath, which he hopes will operate like the “Golden Rule” of the world economy.

Keeley said no matter what path Notre Dame students pursue after graduation, they would inherently look for careers with a higher purpose because of their Notre Dame background.

“The bottom line is that you will not be happy in your career if you don’t do something that links you back to the good of the community,” he said.

Judge Kathleen Kearney, who graduated from the University in 1980, said no matter what career students choose after graduation, students should remember the moral of their Notre Dame education.

“You need to give voice those who do not have it and represent those who no one else wants to represent,” she said.

Kearney, who now works as a clinical professor and researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, works with children in welfare services.

For these children, she said, their “nightmares were their reality.”

She said many students might encounter deplorable circumstances and situations on their path to serve the common good. But she added that a Notre Dame background would help students complete their jobs without getting bogged down in negativity.

“You will also see great hope everyday and it will get you up and will give you the strength to do it,” she said. “And you continue to fight because you are a member of the Fighting Irish.”