The Archie W. Dunham College of Business at HBU has been widely recognized for its excellence – an excellence that comes from the product of our students, the quality of our faculty, the breadth of our programs, and the reputation of the Dunham name.

Business, Virtue, and Morality

It is sometimes the case that people think business involves only moneymaking and, therefore, pertains to operations outside the normal life of morality and Christian faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, the practice of business, properly understood and taught, is completely related to true life and living, and thus cannot be separated from virtue and morality. Right living – life lived in a way that involves flourishing and excellence – is historically understood as grounded in the classical virtues of courage, justice, temperance (moderation), and prudence.

What is the virtue of prudence?

Business practices are closely related to the virtue of prudence. In popular usage, prudence is often associated with either “old-fashioned morality” on the one hand or being overly cautious on the other. However, prudence (prudentia) is a shortened form of the Latin term providentia, or “seeing ahead,” which involves the wise anticipation of outcomes and the capacity to anticipate what various decisions will produce. It is for these reasons that the virtue of prudence is often associated – rightly so – with the world of business.

Good business decisions involve the practice of gathering information, facing the reality that is at hand, considering all of the surrounding circumstances, discussing and comparing the various alternatives, organizing the relevant information in a way that makes good decision making possible, and then acting in a timely and appropriate way.

Stated briefly, prudence involves the capacity to anticipate outcomes and to make wise decisions, which is of the essence in living and, of course, in the practice of honorable business.

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Prudence must also be understood as involving the wisdom to know how, when, and where to put our decisions into practice. For example, it is always honest to tell the truth, but it may not always be prudent to tell the truth. To tell an elderly man who is suffering from a weakened heart condition that his beloved wife of 60 years has just been tragically killed in a car accident might be honest, but it would not be prudent immediately to rush into his bedroom, suddenly waking him in the middle of the night, to tell him the bad news.  The truth should be told to him at the right time, in a loving way, with all of the appropriate support mechanisms of family, friends, and other health considerations in place.

Houston Baptist University Archie W. Dunham College of BusinessAn example from the world of business might involve the selling and buying of stock. It might be a sound decision to sell a certain stock and buy another one, and a person or institution must have courage to do that, but such decisions also require prudence. What are the risks involved for the company, institution, or family when it comes to liquidating a given stock? When is the best time to sell the stock, and what is the best time to buy another stock? Context, risk, how and when to act – these are important considerations in making the right decision. Otherwise, courage can prove to be foolhardiness.

The best business schools prepare students for life.

The best schools of business not only teach practices that make a profit and add value to property and assets, but also prepare students for life. With the virtues of wisdom and prudence, we live our lives knowing how, when, and where to make morally right decisions.

And, as we see in the life of the internationally known Christian businessman for whom our Archie W. Dunham College of Business is named, the Greco-Roman virtue of prudence should be accompanied by other virtues, including the Christian virtues of patience, humility, chastity, and love. These are virtues that would not have appealed to an ancient Greco-Roman world.

The Christian Worldview in Business

These Christian virtues can embrace, enrich, and expand the classical virtues. And, of course, the Christian virtues mentioned above are especially grounded in the sacrificial, self-giving death of Jesus on the cross. It is his sacrifice that points us to humility, service, and a willingness to do the right thing on behalf of others, even if it is costly to us.

HBU’s Dunham College of Business thus points not only to prudence in gathering information, organizing it, and analyzing it for the purpose of wise decision making, but it also points us to a Christian worldview, where prudence is best exercised with the wisdom that comes from having the mind of Christ.

Having the mind of Christ comes to those who are followers of Christ. It is a gift of God based upon God’s historic and revolutionary act in the person of Jesus, especially his death and resurrection, and it involves God’s gift of his Spirit to those who have exercised faith in Jesus.

But, having the mind of Christ does not create in us an automatic habit of wisdom. Having the mind of Christ is precisely for the purpose of developing character, and it is something that must be used and exercised with intentional acts of the will for the purposes of doing God’s work in the world. Making decisions based upon God’s purposes in the world thus requires discipline, humility, courage, and love (see Galatians 5:22-25), all of which should be exercised with the faith and right thinking that is grounded in the wisdom of God revealed in Christ.


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HBU Archie W. Dunham College of Business

Undergraduate majors offered by the Archie W. Dunham College of Business are accounting, finance, international business, management, and marketing. The average undergraduate class has 25 to 30 students, and the average graduate class has about 40 students. Most students graduate in approximately four years. The Dunham College of Business focuses on three key areas for its curriculum: leadership, innovation, and Christian character. To that end, it has recently created a unique Business Stewardship course that integrates advanced ethics, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability into a Christian framework.

Within the Dunham College of Business is the Center for Christianity in Business (CCB) and the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise. The college is also a higher education partner with Good Works Houston, a social entrepreneurship organization that promotes entrepreneurial initiatives in the local area.

Notable undergraduate and graduate alumni include United States Representative Bill Flores; Joe Zimmerman, current mayor of Sugar Land; Colin Montgomerie; Mark Ammerman; Bob Beauchamp; Rick Redding; and Pastor Ed Young. Today, alumni work at GE, Comerica Bank, Morgan Stanley, Woodforest National Bank, East West Bank, Champion Energy, Patriot Bank, Northwestern Mutual, Scotiabank, Shell Oil, City of Houston, City of Sugar Land, International Indexing Association, Spectra Energy, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PwC, Grant Thornton, UHY Advisors, Melton & Melton, and more. The college maintains more than 500 company connections.

Learn more about the Archie W. Dunham College of Business at HBU.edu.


Edited by Joannah Buffington

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