Developing a Moral Compass by Understanding the Human Condition and Appreciating Differing Perspectives: Asia Foundation Trustee Tim Kochis
June 20, 2018
In his wide-ranging career, Asia Foundation Trustee Tim Kochis has been a nationally prominent wealth manager and strategic consultant, a six-time author, a philanthropist, and an educator. At U.C. Berkeley, where he cofounded the university’s personal financial planning program, an annual teaching-excellence award bears his name. His board memberships include the University of San Francisco, the Charles Schwab Investment Management Company, The 1990 Institute, and The Asia Foundation.
The first in his family, along with four siblings, to go to college, Kochis this year was honored as a distinguished alumnus by his alma mater, Marquette University. As reported in A & S Marquette, the magazine of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, Kochis used the award ceremony to issue a “rallying cry for the liberal arts”:
An education in the liberal arts is all about developing a moral compass through a strong understanding of the human condition and acceptance of ambiguity and an appreciation for differing perspectives. The measure of success in the humanities is an awareness of the unavoidable uncertainty in human affairs and developing a sense of values that permits us to navigate our way through uncertainty.
Kochis says the most powerful reward of his life’s work has been the interpersonal connections forged with clients. “For that, a humanities education is hugely relevant. It helps you to accept and even relish the nuances of individual decision-making, as well as the ambiguities that are always present in human affairs.”
A native of south suburban Chicago, Kochis engaged broadly in the humanities, majoring in philosophy and sociology and minoring in political science and psychology. He entered law school at the University of Michigan in fall 1968 but was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he spent two years, including a brief deployment in Vietnam, before returning to complete his law degree. This month, InAsia invited him to share a few more of his thoughts on education, business, and philanthropy:
Marquette’s magazine called your distinguished alumnus address a “rallying cry for the liberal arts.” Do you think the liberal arts are in need of rallying just now?
Yes, the heavy emphasis on STEM, while very appropriate, risks ignoring the very large contribution the humanities make to developing a well-rounded, values-oriented college graduate. No question that the STEM fields will be important engines of economic development, but they can never provide the steering wheel. It’s not either/or, but both.
You’ve worn a lot of different professional hats—wealth manager, author, educator. What ties them together, in your mind?
Intellectual curiosity and a skill at persuasive communication. I enjoy helping people learn.
Is there a consistent theme that runs from your undergraduate studies in the humanities to your position today as a trustee and leader of the Asia Foundation?
Individual freedom of choice—and its counterpart, responsibility—to make the world a better place through those choices.
What values does The Asia Foundation represent that are a good fit with your own outlook?
Commitment to justice, inclusion, economic and political freedom, conflict resolution through dialogue and shared advantage—no zero-sum outcomes, but win-win—and deep appreciation of cultural diversity. I have traveled widely to see the incredible work of the Foundation, and I see these themes in action again and again in TAF’s work across Asia: smart solutions to critical problems.
Tim Kochis is CEO of Kochis Global. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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