Ronald M. Shaich ’76
Mr. President, I have the honor of presenting Ronald M. Shaich, Clark University Class of 1976, founder, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer of Panera Bread.
Mr. Shaich, soon after you enrolled at Clark you demonstrated your willingness and ability to challenge convention — and the Clark administration — by initiating and mobilizing support for a proposal to create a General Store on campus. Motivated by outrage over the high prices students were being charged for snack foods and soft drinks at the nearest convenience store, you developed a plan to create a nonprofit store run by and for students that would offer quality merchandise at reasonable prices. Your entreprenurial and management skills helped make the store so successful that it soon began making a profit, which you turned over to the Student Council to provide support for other student programs.
Your business acumen as an undergraduate earned you a rare offer of admission to the M.B.A. Program at the Harvard Business School right after you graduated from Clark. From there, you went on to co-found the Au Bon Pain Co. Drawing on your experiences with it you launched Panera Bread, based on the principle that people deserve a high-quality alternative to fast food — healthy, flavorful and affordable choices. The public agreed with you, and today, Panera Bread has nearly 1,800 cafes in 40 states and Canada, and is recognized as one of the most successful restaurant companies in the United States.
You have also managed to change our world by showing that entrepreneurship can be meshed with a commitment to social justice and the betterment of communities. Recognizing that 48 million Americans go to bed hungry every day, you spearheaded the Panera Cares initiative, which brings nonprofit cafes into struggling neighborhoods to combat the scourge of food insecurity. These pay-what-you-can cafes offer the full Panera menu, and feed every person who walks through the doors with dignity, and without judgment, regardless of their means.
Your concern with how the rancor of modern politics inhibits positive change led you to co-found No Labels, a nonpartisan organization whose goal is to rise above entrenched ideologies and beyond political labels to find ways to work together for the common good and move forward as a nation.
Mr. Shaich, founding and operating the General Store was not your last involvement with Clark University — far from it. You helped chart Clark’s path to greater prominence as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1988 to 2001, serving as its chair for four of those years. Today, you inspire our students through the innovation, passion, and compassion you display in your life and career, qualities that exemplify the one label in which we all take pride: Clarkie.
Mr. President, on behalf of the Trustees, faculty, students and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, be conferred on Mr. Ronald M. Shaich.