The University of St. Thomas hosted the 5 annual Cameron School of Business Alumni Week on March 11-15. CSB alumni returned to campus to speak to classes, and alumnus Joseph “Skip” Courtney presented the keynote address during a luncheon on March 11.
Courtney, who received a degree in economics in 1973, shared stories about how his liberal arts education at UST prepared him to embark on a multifaceted career involving medical administration, consulting and entrepreneurship.
“Being exposed to more than just a specific subject provides a tremendous background as you go out in life to whatever career you choose,” Courtney said.
Courtney moved to Houston from New York in 1969 and began his college career as a math major. While he enjoyed mathematics, he felt his particular skill set and desire to work with people would be better suited in a different career. After interviewing several department heads, he met economics professor Dr. Barry Wilbratte, now acting dean, and then Dean Yhi Min Ho at the Cameron School of Business. Both served as mentors and helped him to develop skills and knowledge that would prepare him for his career.
While a student at St. Thomas, Courtney became involved with the student senate, was the president of the Students Government Association and graduated with honors. He said he was pleased with his involvement on campus and urged students to get involved.
“If any of you are just sitting back thinking you will take your classes and not get to involved, I think you are selling yourself short,” Courtney said. “I think the opportunity to meet people from different walks of life, different countries and different cultures will become an experience you don’t want to miss.”
After graduation, Courtney moved to Aspen, Colo., to learn how to ski. He supported himself through odd jobs, including a position as a maintenance man at a condominium complex. After tactfully handling a maintenance concern for an executive of a hospital administration company who was staying at the complex, he was offered a position within the company, an opportunity he credits to his work ethic and dedication to his job.
“Honesty in the work place is critical,” Courtney said. “To your own self esteem, to your own success and to the success of your company.”
Courtney said the three keys to his success, and success in general, are knowledge, work ethic and integrity.
Beginning his career in hospital administration, Courtney moved up the ranks, eventually running his own hospital. When his first boss was appointed CEO of another company, Courtney was recruited away and was put in charge of several hospitals in the northern California area. When that company was bought out, he was recruited back to Texas and oversaw 10 hospitals along the border.
While in south Texas, Courtney became a consultant to a group of surgeons whom he assisted in opening their own hospital and growing the company. He tried his hand in the entrepreneurial world, starting a Telemedicine Company that has since closed. He maintains that though the venture was unsuccessful, it was a great learning experience. He is currently involved in a company that manages physicians, staffs hospitals and develops software for patient information.
“My time here was critical in creating a foundation for me,” Courtney said. “A liberal arts education is so beneficial in helping us to become well rounded individuals.”