John D. Bassett III
John D. Bassett III

Longwood University online MBA students will get a front-line look into competitive business and leadership responsibilities when John D. Bassett III, noted author and chairman of the Galax-based Vaughan-Bassett Furniture, pays a visit to campus July 21.

Bassett will be the keynote speaker for the annual four-day summer residency program for online students. His book, "Making It In America: A 12-Point Plan for Growing Your Business and Keeping Jobs at Home," details his philosophy that making profits is not the only business goal and that corporations have a responsibility to their employees, the communities in which they reside, the country and the common welfare of all.

Bassett is also the subject of Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, which details how Bassett and his company went against prevailing industry winds to keep making furniture in the U.S., successfully saving the company and growing manufacturing operations. Factory Man has been optioned by Tom Hanks for an HBO miniseries.

"When we talk about leadership, there is no more qualified person to speak to Longwood students than John Bassett," said Abbey O’Connor, assistant dean of the College of Business and Economics and MBA director. "His experience navigating turbulence within the manufacturing business and not only keeping his company afloat but also leading it to new heights is a testament to his ingenuity and ability to adapt."

Longwood’s MBA online program, ranked as one of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, holds an annual on-campus summer residency program. This year’s theme centers on leadership values and ethics, and when it came time to find a keynote speaker, Bassett’s name was front and center in O’Connor’s mind.

"That sense of being grounded and recognizing responsibility to people resonated with what we’re talking about over this weekend when we look at leadership values."

Abbey O’Connor

"His book talks about his leadership style and the importance of not just making money, but how he felt obligated to the people whose families have been employees of the company for hundreds of years and the town of Galax," O’Connor said. "That sense of being grounded and recognizing responsibility to people resonated with what we’re talking about over this weekend when we look at leadership values."

About 40 MBA students are scheduled to attend the July 21-24 summer residency. Most study part time, completing the 36-credit-hour program in two years, though there are some who take a full load and finish in just over a year.

"We started the MBA program in 2006," O’Connor said. "We originally were a face-to-face program with classroom enrichment connected with video teleconferencing. In 2010, we transitioned to a fully online program. Part of making that change was realizing that students didn’t need just the flexibility of place, but also the flexibility of time to fit graduate studies into their already busy lives with families and careers."

Still, she said, they wanted to have a program that connected with students, so they developed the summer residency program.

"A big part of an MBA program is networking. The summer residency gives students the opportunity to meet others in the program face-to-face and develop their learning communities," O’Connor said. "It also gives them the opportunity to get to know the professors and get a feel for the academic rigor that’s going to be expected."

O’Connor has found that the students stay connected beyond the summer and that the program strengthens the bond between students and Longwood faculty.

"That’s definitely important for us, too," she said. "We want them to feel like they are indeed part of Longwood University, because they are."

Bassett will hold a book signing at the Longwood University bookstore on July 21 from noon-2 p.m.

Leave a Comment