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Ukleja Center Presents John Wooden Award to Special Olympics

Published: June 15, 2010

The Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at CSULB presented its 2010 John Wooden Ethics in Leadership Award to Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) to honor the legacy and visionary leadership of its founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and the organization’s unparalleled success in changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

The award presentation took place on June 12 in the University Student Union ballroom at SOSC’s Rafer Johnson Breakfast with Champions event during the annual Summer Games Championship, which took on the CSULB campus.

The award, accompanied by a $10,000 check, was accepted on behalf of SOSC by Johnson, a two-time Olympic decathlon medalist who also played basketball for Coach Wooden at UCLA. The award was presented by Louise Ukleja, co-founder of the Ukleja Center, and Howard Chambers, chair of the center’s governing council.

“Special Olympics Southern California epitomizes the spirit of the John Wooden Award,” said Ukleja. “The organization’s unprecedented commitment of visionary leadership for this deserving yet underserved population of society is an impressive ethical response to a genuine need. Through fitness training and athletic competition, it enables children and adults to experience their potential as they are given the opportunity to demonstrate competence, build confidence and experience community. The 2010 John Wooden Award pays tribute to the vision and ethical commitment of Special Olympics Southern California.”

Wooden, who passed away at the age of 99 on June 4, received the inaugural John Wooden Ethics in Leadership Award last year. Wooden is best known for his ability to instill confidence and transmit the values of his “Pyramid of Success” to the on-court behavior of his players.

The award is named for Wooden to promote his practice of ethical leadership and to salute a leader who embodied the Ukleja Center’s core values of integrity, excellence, empowerment, abundance and servant leadership. It is designed to honor a person or organization whose contribution to a relevant community – whether local, national or global – is built on ethical behavior and visionary leadership and reflects a significant response to a specific challenge or opportunity.

“As the world’s largest sports organization, Special Olympics typifies everything in society that is good and right about sports,” said Bill Shumard, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Southern California. “We strive to operate according to the highest ethical standards, providing the right example for our exceptional athletes. To that end, we are honored to be aligned with both Coach John Wooden and the Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership – people and organizations of the highest ethical caliber. Our society is crying out for heroes, and I know Coach Wooden certainly put our athletes in that category.”

The Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at CSULB focuses on a three-pronged interdisciplinary approach to applied ethics – university research, education, and community outreach. In addition to offering programs for faculty and students, the center works with companies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations to advance the practice of ethical leadership.

–Paul Browning