James Sinegal (Doctor of Humane Letters)

JAMES D. SINEGAL, as an accomplished entrepreneur, you have predicated your business success on a philosophy that always puts people first.

Your passion for retail business was born while you were bagging groceries at FedMart in the mid-1950s. You worked your way up to executive vice president in charge of merchandising and operations, gaining extensive experience in sales and management.

In 1983, you co-founded Costco and led the “warehouse store” concept to unprecedented growth. You pioneered the inclusion of fresh food, pharmacies, eye-care clinics, and gas stations into the “warehouse club” model. And your legendary love of a $1.50 hot dog has made it a signature favorite at Costcos nationwide.

By visiting every Costco location each year, you never lost sight of the importance of frontline employees to the business’s long-term financial success. In putting faith in your employees, you instilled loyalty in them. You compensated them well for their work, encouraged them to take ownership and initiative, and afforded them opportunities for advancement, often promoting from within. As a result, you achieved the highest productivity and lowest employee turnover rates in retail, and built a culture focused on providing the best customer experience and the lowest available prices.

This unconventional model not only delighted your customers, but generated outstanding returns for your shareholders, proving that it is, indeed, possible to do well by doing good.

For your inspirational and innovative leadership style and your dedication to the idea that if you put people first, profits will follow, we are pleased to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.