The Courage to Speak

by Kate Sullivan '15

It takes courage to speak up when everyone remains silent. It takes courage to do the right thing even if it means risking your career. It takes courage to be a whistle-blower. Cynthia Cooper, former vice president of WorldCom, knows how true it is. In 2002, Time magazine named Cooper Person of the Year for her work in exposing one of the biggest frauds in corporate history, World Com. On October 18, she will share her story with Azusa Pacific University students, alumni, and friends, as a part of Homecoming Week, and a new annual speaker series by LP and Timothy Leung School of Accounting.

Cooper shares her account in her book, Extraordinary Circumstances. The book offers insight into her journey as a whistle-blower, as well as her life experiences that helped shape her decision. At the time of the fraud, she followed the appropriate steps to try to reconcile the issue within the company; only stepping outside of WorldCom when it became obvious there was no way to fix it internally. She not only acted with integrity, but reached a just outcome.

Cooper’s story reflects the goals of the Leung School of Accounting, which strives to mold students of character and competence. “We need accounting professionals with both high competence and high character, able to recognize the problem and have the moral courage to address it,” said John Thornton, Ph.D., CPA, professor and Leung Chair of Accounting Ethics. “Cynthia Cooper serves as a great role model because she had the courage to take a stand and protect the public from a devastating fraud, despite facing great personal cost.”

Through this lecture, Thornton hopes attendees will glean some of Cooper’s wisdom. “I want them to see how important Christianity is to accounting ethics,” said Thornton. “Christianity brings the bold courage to do something about injustice.When you see someone who took the risk, that gives us the courage,” said Thornton. “From a worldly perspective, things don’t always end in our favor; but God is sovereign, and from an eternal perspective his justice prevails.”

The lecture will take place in Upper Turner Campus Center, on Azusa Pacific University’s East Campus in Azusa. The lecture begins with a breakfast mixer at 8:30 a.m., followed by a lecture by Thornton on “Accounting Ethics and the ‘God-Factor.” Cooper will conclude the day with a lunch lecture at noon.

To register for the event: click here

For more information, contact the School of Business and Management at (866) 209-1559 or sbmgrad@apu.edu.