Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
Atkinson Lecture featuring Jerry Greenfield
Wednesday, March 18
7:30 p.m. (doors opened at 6:30 p.m.)
Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc., presented "An Evening of Entrepreneurial Spirit, Social Responsibility and Radical Business Philosophy" on March 18, 2015. As a special treat, a limited supply of Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars were given out to attendees.
Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc., Greenfield has helped to build a storefront venture into a $300 million ice cream empire by making social responsibility and creative management strengths instead of weaknesses.
With his best seller, Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too (co-authored with Cohen), Greenfield created both a nuts-and-bolts guidebook to the promise and pitfalls of “values-led” business, and an inspiring wake-up call about the growing international influence of the “socially conscious” or “mission-driven” corporation.
Bringing all of this to life at the lecture podium, Greenfield’s presentation delivered a rousing tribute to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, full of anecdotes and radical business philosophy. It also addressed the great sense of fun that is the company’s hallmark, illustrated with the serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for the entire audience.
Jerry Greenfield was born in Brooklyn, New York, four days before his future business partner Ben Cohen. He grew up and went to school in Merrick, Long Island. It was there that he first met Ben in junior high school, and the two have remained close friends ever since. Greenfield graduated from high school with a National Merit Scholarship under his belt and enrolled at Oberlin College to study pre-med.
At Oberlin, Greenfield got his first taste of the ice cream industry when he took a job as a scooper in the college cafeteria. After graduation, he worked as a lab technician in New York and lived with his school buddy Ben in an apartment on East 10th Street. In 1977, with Jerry thoroughly sick of his occupation as lab tech, the two friends decided to fulfill a dream they both shared: running a food business together. The two eventually settled on ice cream, and, after a bit of research (and a $5 Penn State correspondence course in ice cream making), opened Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont in May 1978.
Ben and Jerry soon became known throughout Vermont for their rich, unusual flavors and community-oriented approach to business. They sponsored a Fall Down Festival and a free outdoor movie festival, and celebrated their anniversaries with a Free Cone Day. Jerry began by making all the ice cream, but as the company expanded into new markets, he soon found himself handling everything from distribution to orientation to employee motivation.
Today a model for American business success, Greenfield and Cohen have been recognized for fostering their company’s commitment to social responsibility by the Council on Economic Priorities (which awarded them the Corporate Giving Award in 1988 for donating 7.5 percent of their pre-tax profits to non-profit organizations through the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation), and by the U.S. Small Business Administration (which named them U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988 in a White House ceremony hosted by President Reagan).
Greenfield's lecture commemorated 40 years of excellence in management education at Willamette University's Atkinson Graduate School of Management.