TODAY | August 16, 2011
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, co-host: Back now at 8:42 with YOUR LIFE CALLING TODAY . TODAY contributor Jane Pauley has been working with AARP , which has produced and sponsored a series of reports for us. Jane , good morning. Nice to see you.
JANE PAULEY reporting: Hi, Savannah. It's great to be here. Forty years Gifford and Libba Pinchot have been partners in every sense of the word. Ten years ago when they were both 58 they didn't merely decide to change careers, they decided to change the world . Here is their life calling.
Mr. GIFFORD PINCHOT: I thought about my great-grandchildren asking, 'Well, when it became clear that civilization was headed in a destructive direction, did you do anything about it, or did you just sit there and watch?'
PAULEY: You were in your late 50s...
Mr. PINCHOT: Mm-hmm.
PAULEY: ...and you're thinking 'It might not be too late for me to change the world .'
Mr. PINCHOT: Well, what else is there to do, really?
PAULEY: A ferry ride from Seattle , nestled in the woods, is the Bainbridge Graduate Institute , the brainchild of Libba and Gifford Pinchot . It may look like a summer camp, but BGI is fully accredited.
Mr. PINCHOT: Our graduates work at Microsoft , Boeing , Timberland , T-Mobile .
PAULEY: Ironically, neither Gifford nor Libba has an MBA .
Ms. LIBBA PINCHOT: We learned business experientially.
PAULEY: When they were the age of many of their students, they were grad school dropouts with a farm and a blacksmithing business.
Mr. PINCHOT: I claimed that my blacksmithing career was my MBA .
PAULEY: But they emerged from the '70s as corporate consultants, and for 25 years were a successful business partnership .
Ms. PINCHOT: At that point I said, 'OK, Gifford , do you want to retire?' And he kept saying, 'No, I just feel like we need to do one more thing.'
Mr. PINCHOT: There's this sort of 'is this all there is to life?' That was beginning to happen to us.
PAULEY: And then 9/11 happened.
Mr. PINCHOT: Suddenly life seemed short. We can't just sit around and think about these things. I had to do something about it. And so we looked and said, 'What's the highest leverage way in which we can change the world for the better?'
PAULEY: For Gifford , whose grandfather was the first chief of the US Forest Service , the answer was a school with a mission teaching future leaders how to keep the planet healthy while turning a profit. Where did your seed money come from?
Mr. PINCHOT: Initial seed money came from us.
PAULEY: They sunk their retirement money into starting the school.
Mr. PINCHOT: There's a give-back period in life. Now it's time to really ask 'what can we do for the world?'
PAULEY: But why is it in the forest?
Mr. PINCHOT: We started out in our living room and the third year we had to go somewhere, there wasn't room anymore, and so we found this place.
PAULEY: An environmental teaching facility from Monday through Thursday noon.
Mr. PINCHOT: And we wanted it Thursday at 1:00 through Sunday noon.
PAULEY: It was a perfect match. BGI students are on campus just four days a month, the rest of the time students and professors work together online. Gifford , what are you looking for in a student at BGI ?
Mr. PINCHOT: One, can -- do you have the math skills to do an MBA , do you have the English writing skills so that we don't have to teach you how to write, and do you have the kind of passion that's necessary to change the world ?
PAULEY: The Bainbridge Graduate Institute may be the model of the school of the future .
Mr. PINCHOT: Other schools began copying us. And I think our largest impact is the fact that we're transforming schools all around the world . Business is the dominant institution of our time, business doesn't do it, it's not going to happen, so we might as well change business.
PAULEY: As of today , BGI has graduated 440 students. So the last 10 years the best 10 years of your life?
Ms. PINCHOT: Yeah.
PAULEY: The best.
Ms. PINCHOT: The best.
PAULEY: You're now 68, are you finished?
Ms. PINCHOT: We've only got one more thing that we can do, remember, we only have one more thing.
Mr. PINCHOT: So it seemed at the time. Now I'm pretty convinced that if we stop doing this we'll find one more thing to do.
PAULEY: BGI 's motto is "changing business for good." And so far, so good.
But here's the reality check: It's been very hard work and BGI is still a young institution that leans pretty heavily on its mom and pop founders. I hope you'll join me today for a call-in Internet radio show at noon Eastern at aarp.org/ jane . Savannah :
GUTHRIE: I love how you asked him, 'Well, you decided to change the world ,' and he said, 'What else are you going to do?'
PAULEY: That's right .
GUTHRIE: That's very fascinating. Thank you so much , Jane .