Photo (left to right): Arthur “Skip” and Douglas Oppenheimer.
The View from a Path Less Taken
Brothers Doug and Skip Oppenheimer to Receive Honorary U-Idaho DegreesBy Donna Emert
Idaho businessmen Douglas and Arthur “Skip” Oppenheimer began their storied careers with solid grounding in the humanities. Their shared interest in culture, history, civics, communication and the arts has helped to shape them as successful entrepreneurs, and as generous public servants.
As undergraduates at the University of Idaho, Doug earned a journalism degree and Skip a degree in history. Skip went on to earn a master’s in business administration from Harvard University. Doug joined the ranks of the fourth estate as a journalist for the Idaho Statesman.
“Journalism provided me the opportunity to learn skills as an active listener, asking pertinent questions and working to become a better communicator both in person and in writing,” said Doug. “It’s still a work in progress for me.”
“One advantage of studying history is having the opportunity to gain broader perspective from the past as one looks at current and future challenges,” said Skip. “The lessons and context of history can provide a deeper understanding of the world we live in.”
The brothers’ business acumen, and their insights into the historical and social context wherein businesses operate, have paid big dividends to Idaho: Together, they established and head Oppenheimer Companies, Inc., a national food processing, sales, marketing and distribution organization and a leading Idaho corporation. The brothers have been business partners for 38 years.
At commencement ceremonies on December 8, 2012, the Oppenheimers will receive honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Idaho. Honorary degrees are awarded to alumni whose impacts include outstanding public service.
The brothers’ social impacts are diverse and profound. Most recently, the Oppenheimer brothers established the Oppenheimer Ethics Symposium. The Symposium brings together participants from the fields of journalism, law, public relations, advertising, business and government.
Their many philanthropic and public service interests focus on Idaho's children and their families, health care, economic development, the liberal arts and education. In a joint statement, they define their educational objective as: “continuing to improve and enhance opportunities for students in the state of Idaho, to help them become effective citizens of the 21st Century.”
In addition to their leadership, entrepreneurship and far-reaching public service, the brothers are legend for their sense of humor.
“We feel in most things, especially business, the difference between tragedy and comedy is a day or two. . .or even an hour or two,” Doug said. “Of course, we are not necessarily that good at telling the difference between real laughter and courtesy laughter, or for that matter, people laughing at us or with us. Actually we stopped trying to tell the difference,” says Skip.
While an education in the humanities is a path less taken to a career in business, the brothers recommend it without reservation.
“Getting a broad background in the arts and humanities is a very big opportunity as a foundation for personal and professional growth,” they said. “It is also, we feel, an opportunity to have a little broader awareness of other people, cultures and points of view. We become quite specialized in this 21st Century world, and the opportunity to have a broader background is one that we have always felt was very valuable in life.”