Dan Amos confesses. He was wearing a tie in his office at Aflac headquarters in Columbus. Years after his employees convinced him not to wear one in the sweltering southwest Georgia heat. And years after his daughter drew a picture of him mowing the lawn wearing a tie.
But it wasn’t just any tie. It was covered with pictures of the world-famous duck that made his insurance company’s name a household word through one of the all-time great advertising campaigns. He had met with a dozen investors that morning and knew they would wear ties even though they had been urged not to.
Amos (BBA ’73) turns his attention from ties to Terry College’s vast new Business Learning Community looming above the corner of Lumpkin and Baxter streets. When it’s done, it will comprise six buildings with Amos Hall as its centerpiece.
Amos served as chairman of the Building Terry campaign that set out nine years ago to raise $90 million to bring the business college up to speed with its competitors, not only with money for bricks and mortar but also for faculty, programs and students. The campaign far exceeded that goal raising more than $121 million.
Amos credits the business school staff with telling him who and when to call. But all Terry alumni answer the phone when Amos calls and they listen carefully to what he has to say. He is among the most respected — and most involved — graduates in the history of the college.
Asking alumni for money in this campaign wasn’t difficult, he says, because he made it clear the funds were crucial to ensure Terry kept up with or surpassed the top business schools in the country. Without a spurt of growth in facilities, faculty and technology, Terry could fall behind. It was almost as if he was recruiting for a football team made up entirely of All-Americans.
“We had a good story to tell about the need for the learning center because we were becoming less competitive and if that continued it would have hurt the university,” he says.
Amos not only was in charge of raising the necessary money, he was intimately involved in the details of how it would be spent. It’s a lesson learned from other philanthropists.
“I’ve learned from other people that give that it’s important to have a detailed understanding of how your money is going to be spent,” he says. “I wanted to know all the details of how it would be built. It’s just good stewardship. And I found that others communicate better in constantly keeping you updated about what your money has done.”
He is pleased and proud of the results. “It has the ability to allow the professors to communicate in a kind of perfect environment, to keep students engaged in what’s going on.”
He got a firsthand look at the success of the campaign in July when he made a speech about technology at the Harvard Business School.
He is a big draw — not only because of the famous duck commercials — but also as the second-longest serving CEO of a public company in America, behind only Warren Buffett. And, in his 28 years as CEO, he has created a company environment that is consistently rated as one of the best places to work in America. He learned from his father and uncles who started the company in 1955 that “if you take care of the people, they’ll take care of the company.”
“I think our facilities at Terry are equal or as good as what is going on with the Harvard Business School,” Amos says after his visit. “Let me tell you, we can shine with the best of them.”
Under Amos’ leadership, Aflac has experienced phenomenal growth, much of it since his wildly courageous gamble to go with the duck commercials, which hit the insurance advertising world like an earthquake.
He says he probably wouldn’t have met the criteria to get into UGA if he were a student today. But to those who do meet the standards to enter Terry, he says, “grasp all the knowledge you can at the university and you’ll be prepared for the business world. The other thing is: enjoy the university life, because it doesn’t get much better than it is in college and you’ll build friendships for life.”
Being bilingual “is an enormous advantage to you,” he adds. He travels often to Japan, where Aflac insures one out of every four households. He speaks some Japanese but still uses a translator. He says learning Spanish will be especially important for fresh graduates.
Amos made the most of his experience at UGA. He was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and was elected campuswide as president of the Class of ’73. Asked if he was interested in running for office today, he replies “NO!” and adds, “politics are so pugnacious now.”
He still plays singles tennis several times a week with Columbus attorney Lee Champion (BBA ’72). They are like the Boys of Endless Summer. “He and I have been playing sports 52 years. We started at 14 and we’re still playing. We started with high school tennis, then racquetball, then squash, and now we’ve gone back to tennis.” The winner is decided, he says, “by whoever has the least amount of pain on any given day.”
Amos Hall will serve as an enormous welcoming edifice on the west side of campus for generations to come.
“I’m very humbled to have the opportunity to have my family name on the building and it has been my pleasure to be associated with the university in some form or fashion for over 40 years,” Amos says.
In the distant future, a freshman business student might look up at the imposing building and ask “Who was this guy, Amos?”
What would Amos like the answer to be?
“He was a guy who loved the university and felt like it, as well as a network of friends, helped play a large role in his life and the successes he was able to achieve.”