The Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award honours an outstanding economist, business leader, or writer of our times whose work and lifetime achievements best exemplify the principles of freedom and free enterprise represented by Friedrich A. v. Hayek and the Austrian School of Economics.
This year’s laureate is entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist Richard J Stephenson, whom Svensk Tidskrift had the honour to meet at the Austrian Conference in Vienna.
Stephenson comes from a humble background, the son of a pharmacist and homemaker in a farming town in Iowa. While money was often tight, his parents nonetheless installed in him a sense of responsibility for one’s surroundings – that when you see someone who is less well off than yourself, and you are in a unique position to do something about their plight, without harm to self, family or Lord, you simply do it – quietly, and without expecting something in return.
After several successful years as an entrepreneur and global merchant banker, Stephenson is in a unique position to pay it forward, and does so to the standards taught to him as a child.
Following his mother’s death from cancer, and the painful reality of her lack of hope-fulfilling options, treatment and care, Stephenson made a promise to change the face of cancer care. In 1988, he and his family founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), which today through its national network of hospitals and outpatient care centers, specializing in the treatment of adult patients with cancer, aims to empower each patient and their caregiver with knowledge and power over their treatment plan.
In 1991, Stephenson founded Gateway for Cancer Research, which he still chairs and supports, and which to date has raised more than $85 million to fund more than 160 cutting-edge clinical trials around the world.
Stephenson graduated in 1962 from Wabash College and while earning his J.D. degree from Northwestern University, established International Capital Investment Company (ICIC), where he still serves as Chairman.
It was during his student years that he came to develop an interest for the mechanics of economy, ideology and libertarianism. He studied Friedrich Hayek, and later Ludwig von Mises. He became the first graduate fellow in political economics at the Foundation of Economic Education, the oldest free market think tank in the United States.
During his years in New York, Stephenson attended regular late night seminars and sessions with the surrounding Austrian and classical liberal circuit, including Mises, Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand, gaining unique opportunities to learn from the legendary economist and philosophers.
Stephenson has stayed involved in the libertarian circuit and credits his ideological background with a great part of his success. He is an avid participant and generous donor of seminars and conferences all over the world.
Stephenson believes the lessons of this ideology not only can, but should, be applied to business. Guiding principles, such as all men try to improve their circumstances, is essential for an entrepreneur who wants to understand both market and customers.
But he also reminds us of what he once learned from Leonard Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE): “There is no need to be an evangelist when you are an example.”
Amanda Wollstad is the editor in chief of Svensk Tidskrift