By Neal Rogers
Former Oakley CEO Mike Parnell is being honored by Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Ethics and Business, as the first recipient of the school’s Business Ethics Award.
Parnell is being recognized for “Exemplary Compassion,” because of his support for Lance Armstrong, four-time winner of the Tour de France, when Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer.
Parnell will accept the award and speak about the place of ethics in business ethics and his relationship with Armstrong on Thursday, November 7, at 7 p.m. in Hilton 100 on LMU’s campus in Westchester, CA.
While Armstrong is now one of the world’s most celebrated and successful athletes, such was not the case in 1996 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and discovered that he had no medical insurance.
When Parnell—then CEO of Oakley, Inc., the prominent southern California eyewear maker and one of Armstrong’s sponsors—learned of Armstrong’s dilemma, he directed Oakley’s insurance provider to cover Armstrong as an Oakley employee. The provider balked, citing Armstrong’s cancer as a “preexisting condition,” but Parnell informed them that if they did not cover the illness, his firm would take its business elsewhere. The insurer then agreed.
Armstrong, who recently celebrated his sixth anniversary of being cancer-free, went on to become a husband, father and the only cancer survivor to win the Tour de France.
“We are honoring Mike Parnell for a simple act of compassion,” explained Thomas I. White, Ph. D. Hilton Professor of Business Ethics and the Center’s Director. “At the time, no one knew whether Armstrong would even live, never mind race again. Against the recent backdrop of executive greed and corporate corruption, we think it’s important to single out a CEO who showed that he understood that kindness has a place in business,” continued White.
Parnell has led a varied life. In 1975, he joined the U.S. Skydiving Team and competed internationally from 1976-1985. He jumped onto the Matterhorn and Great Wall of China, and for the Olympic games, and has taught freefall techniques to the Chinese army. Concurrently, Parnell began his own advertising agency. He then worked for Ocean Pacific Sunwear before joining Oakley in 1985. In 1998 he founded the Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus Foundation to raise interest in the rare kidney disorder that affects his two sons.
For more information, visit the Center for Ethics and Busines website at www.ethicsandbusiness.org.