Former Merck CEO on Corporate Responsibility

Ken Frazier featured in Gruhn lecture series.

Shalvi Singh and Ken Frazier

Image by John Kish IV

Ken Frazier, executive chairman of Merck’s board of directors, was interviewed at the Zoellner Arts Center in October for the 2021 Donald M. Gruhn ’49 Distinguished Finance Speakers Series. Shalvi Singh, recipient of the Asa Packer scholarship for social entrepreneurship in the 1-MBA program, interviewed Frazier on a variety of topics, including the societal obligations of a life science company. The program was part of the Year of Learning.

Frazier said Merck has a deeper purpose than simply serving shareholders. “When I say the company has a soul, it’s because I have 20,000 people in my research laboratories, and when they get up every morning, they don't ask, how do we make more money? They ask, how do we alleviate human suffering?”

Frazier pointed out that companies like Merck need capital to find tomorrow’s breakthroughs. “There's no inconsistency between having a return for investors and having a return for society.”

He also talked about the nonprofit he cofounded, OneTen, a coalition of companies committed to hiring one million Black Americans who lack four-year degrees over the next 10 years.

Governments, nonprofits and corporations need to partner, according to Frazier, to find the technology that will get the right care to the right people. “We need leadership in this country that convinces us that we're responsible for one another,” he said.

“It was an honor to welcome Ken to address the Lehigh community,” said Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business. “His leadership of Merck exemplifies the notion that corporations can promote the public good while providing shareholder value.”

View the full lecture here.