Hal Adams honors lessons learned from business professor
A project completed for the late Dr. Royce Breland’s business class in the late 1960s led to the success of one of Harold H. Adams Jr.’s biggest business proposals 25 years later.
Reflecting on his time spent at Baptist College at Charleston, now CSU, Adams realized the leadership and influence Breland had on him and his fellow alumni. That influence led Adams to donate $500,000 to establish The Royce W. Breland Jr./Harold H. Adams Jr. Endowed Chair of Business in the Nielsen College of Business.
“In the time that I have known Hal Adams, I have found him to be a deep, yet creative thinker,” said Dr. David Palmer, dean of the Nielsen College of Business. “Through that, he saw a way to recognize one of his mentors, Dr. Royce Breland, and support the needs of faculty and students through the Breland/Adams Chair in Business.”
Breland taught at CSU from 1967 until 2013 and served in numerous leadership roles at the university. Adams, who graduated from BCC in 1969, used lessons learned from Breland years earlier to present a proposal to Lloyd’s of London that was almost immediately accepted.
Breland’s research project required students to interview a top executive at a company, obtain past figures, and then prepare a projection for future operations of the company. Adams said the project was made even tougher because there were no computers in the late 60s. “Using basic math skills for calculations and a ruler to prepare graphs, I did the interview and prepared the paper,” he said.
Adams said, “In looking back, I realized that the project Dr. Breland assigned us was analogous to the proposal I prepared for Lloyd’s. I was thankful for his requiring this, as over the years that project was directly responsible for my success in developing unique insurance programs for my clients.”
Adams started his career in property-casualty insurance and began to notice other insurers offering programs to particular business segments and professions. This piqued his interest. A couple of random phone calls seeking insurance to cover equipment for international medical clinics led Adams to reach out to the Foreign Mission Board, now the International Mission Board, of the Southern Baptist Convention. They confirmed a need but said no one had created such a product.
After several years of research and working with his contacts in insurance, Adams not only created the niche but also added related services such as emergency medical evacuation, crisis management, and delivery of prescription drugs to remote areas at greatly reduced costs. Creating Insurance plans for foreign missionaries, insuring personal property against such things as floods, fire, theft, etc., was also a part of his business model.
Adams said, “By the early 1990s, meeting the needs of these groups and persons was a full-time operation, so my practice was then limited to international insurance and related service to nonprofit and charitable organizations. Not only did we provide needed products and services, but in the process saved these organizations millions of dollars in costs through the use of combined buying power.”
Adams also credits Breland with teaching his students the various facets of business. Adams said, “Though today we equate the word marketing to sales, Dr. Breland taught that marketing is the development and delivery of products – from research and development to delivery to the customer, followed by customer service. Sales is only one small part of the marketing process, something lost in today’s business world.”
All of these experiences led Adams to create the endowed chair in the Nielsen College of Business to position the college as a leader in a burgeoning new field that recognizes sustainability and values co-creation as a viable and lucrative corporate strategy.
The chair agreement states, “Students of the endowed chair should study and apply methods that prioritize socially and ecologically conscious long-term wealth creation over quick profits burdened by high environmental and social costs. The research of the endowed chair will cement CSU’s devotion to the study and application of sustainable, transparent, and ethical business practices at all levels of corporate infrastructure, whether in a small or large organizations, preparing students to lead fruitful lives in business, armed with a strong education in honest and ethical corporate strategy.”
Adams said, “In short, I want students to think beyond profit, understand that the price of products is not the true cost. There are externalities that are shifted by companies to customers at the customer’s cost, shifted to the public at cost to taxpayers, and worse, shifted to the environment to the cost of all.”
This understanding of the true costs of products is at the heart of why Adams is donating to create an endowed chair. It is his hope that Nielsen College of Business students will learn to go beyond lip service of being green and in the process will teach businesses to educate customers by truthful advertising to the point they will pay the true cost, rather than just the price.
Adams began his college career at Clemson studying to be an engineer. He quickly learned it wasn’t a good fit and later transferred to Charleston Southern. He didn’t participate in extracurricular activities except to join Circle K for a time. Instead he kept his focus on getting his degree. He said, “CSU taught me a liberal arts education where I could connect everything.” He remains a firm advocate for liberal arts education.
Adams decided early on that Matthew 6:33 would be his business ethic. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Matthew 6:33. He said, “In other words, do it right and don’t worry about the rest of it.”
His business motto was a Latin legal expression, Res Ipsa Loquitur, meaning, “the thing speaks for itself.” Adams said, “We never really advertised. We just did it right to begin with.” His business grew through word of mouth.
One of his most vivid BCC memories was his first night in the brand new dormitory. A main water pipe broke in the middle of the night, and the dorm was evacuated for a long spell. In the dark, Adams turned the radio on in his car to entertain the evacuees. That night, he met Jim Baker, who asked to see his car. Sometime later, Baker introduced Adams to his sister, Cookie, a student at Columbia College. Hal and Cookie were married in 1971.
Over the years, Adams has supported his alma mater in numerous ways. He was elected vice chair of the Board of Visitors when it was created in 1988, and the university awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration in 2000.
“We are very thankful to Hal Adams for his generosity to the Hans A. Nielsen College of Business,” said Palmer. “Being the first to endow a chair like this for the NCOB is a significant indicator of his support for the university. It is also proof of his spirit of servant leadership by setting an example for others in the future.”
Adams’ decision to create an endowed chair in the Nielsen College of Business ensures his legacy to Charleston Southern University will continue for many years to come.