NEW YORK — Wal-Mart came up north on Tuesday to lend a helping a hand to Long Island University students.
In a rare New York appearance, Thomas M. Coughlin, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores and Sam’s Clubs USA, the recipient of LIU’s Ralph Jonas Philanthropic Award for Education, was feted Tuesday at a fundraiser held at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Drawing some 400 attendees, including many from the beauty industry, the event raised $800,000 to benefit LIU’s student scholarship fund.
In accepting the award, Coughlin said, “It is an honor I am humbled by.” Lured to the cause because the LIU student body is 63 percent minority, Coughlin said he saw “something unique and awfully good in it — a school that allowed people to get access to the American dream.”
Then in a softer voice, Coughlin said he hoped that the supportive crowd shared the enthusiasm for the school’s programs. Epitomizing the straight talk Wal-Mart is known for, he continued, “I hope you are not here because of your business with Wal-Mart, that is the only thing that is troubling about things like this.”
Jack Kahl, president and ceo of Jack Kahl & Associates, and Dan Wassong, chairman and ceo of Del Laboratories, were the dinner’s co-chairs. Wassong, an LIU trustee, introduced Coughlin to the university’s president, Dr. David Steinberg, who “schlepped to Bentonville” in order to meet Coughlin — whom he enthusiastically referred to as a “Cleveland plain dealer” and a “straight and decent” man.
Twice during the evening the LIU choir dispersed throughout the room and entertained the crowd with moving renditions of patriotic and spiritual songs, beginning with “America the Beautiful.”
Kahl said that Coughlin’s “humility is part of the power of his leadership,” and Wassong, remarking that Wal-Mart is a “global colossus” lauded Coughlin as a “merchant prince with a common touch.”