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        Accounting, Faculty, Management

        A legacy of excellence: Inspirational Harbert faculty couple retire

        December 12, 2023 By Laura Schmitt

        All News


        Sarah and Peter Stanwick behind MBA lit sign

        Faculty members Sarah and Peter Stanwick are retiring from Auburn's Harbert College of Business after 31 years.

        Harbert College of Business Professors Sarah and Peter Stanwick, who are retiring at the end of December, have been an integral part of the School of Accountancy and Department of Management and Entrepreneurship for the past 31 years.

        They’ve taught thousands of graduate and undergraduate students; conducted research on topics like sustainability, ethics and leadership, and environmental accounting; presented their research at both University of Oxford and University of Cambridge; and have left an indelible mark on the university that they love.

        “Both of the Stanwicks are an institution here at Auburn,” said Michael Wesson, associate dean of Harbert graduate and executive programs.

        Their partnership and contributions

        Peter and Sarah met during the first week of graduate school at Florida State University in the late 1980s. As doctoral candidates, they often shared research ideas with one another, and that collaborative partnership continued when they joined the Auburn faculty in 1992.

        Since then, the couple has co-published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, including a highly cited 1998 research paper in the prestigious Journal of Business Ethics that demonstrated that a firm’s corporate social performance is affected by the size of the firm, its profitability, and pollution emissions.  

        “They started doing research in the area of business ethics before that field had really coalesced,” said Christopher Reutzel, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship chair.

        “They were early movers with respect to their research on the intersection of corporate governance and social responsibility.” 

        They’ve also co-authored four business textbooks: Understanding Business Ethics, which was originally published in 2008 and is now in its third edition, Corporate Sustainability Leadership, International Management: A Stakeholder Approach, and the most recent Absolute Essentials of Business Ethics.

        As the result of a consistently impressive teaching load, they have taught more than 20,000 Auburn  students in courses such as corporate governance, strategic and international management, business ethics, cost accounting, and principles of financial and managerial accounting.

        “When I was Peter’s management department chair, I learned how blessed we were that he would teach such a wide-ranging group of courses every semester,” Wesson said.

        Current department chair Reutzel agrees.

        “If you need someone to cover a course, odds are that Peter has some expertise in that area and can help out,” said Reutzel. “Part of that may be a result of his collaborations with Sarah, which could influence his knowledge of accounting and governance-related issues.”

        For 13 years, Peter was also the faculty lead for the semester-long Team Resource and Applied Consulting (TRAC) capstone consulting class—a required course in the MBA program curriculum. He recruited companies to share their business problems with the students, who would do research, develop ideas and offer solutions.

        According to Jim Parrish, executive director of graduate and international programs, Peter made sure that the online MBA students’ week on campus for the presentation portion of the TRAC course was memorable.

        “Peter would want us to show off the campus and share the history—both as an institution and through Auburn athletics—so [the online students] could feel how special this place is,” said Parrish. “He would always push the Auburn swag and tell the students to wear it proudly.”

        Alumna Bethany Salgado (MBA ’21), who had Peter as an instructor in the TRAC course,  appreciates how he encouraged her to pursue her career dreams while she was completing her MBA.

        “He advocated for me to continue exploring my career opportunities in the areas that interested me, even if those areas weren’t readily available,” said Salgado, who wanted a position in the private sector that merged her interests in government affairs and human rights policy. “He’s diligent about providing exploratory opportunities in these fields.”

        Today Salgado is the associate manager of global human rights at PepsiCo, where she looks at the company’s supply chains and owned operations to ensure they’re following best practices on labor and environmental issues.

        “Finding someone on the Auburn faculty who was familiar with the work I wanted to do with human rights and corporate social responsibility unlocked a big door for me,” she added.

        Peter and Sarah Stanwick seated at Oxford U

        During their Auburn faculty careers, Peter and Sarah presented their research at both Universities of Cambridge and Oxford (pictured above) in England.

        Financial literacy mission

        Outside of her regular teaching load, Sarah distinguished herself as the champion of financial literacy, founding and running the successful Tiger$ense outreach program for 12 years.

        Since its inception in 2012, Tiger$ense has enabled hundreds of Harbert student volunteers to teach about 8,500 middle and high schoolers from the area about basic financial skills like budgeting, calculating a tip, and setting savings goals through fun games and activities.

        “[Sarah’s] impact has been far-reaching and driven by personal passions and creativity,” said Jonathan Stanley, School of Accountancy acting director. “I have such respect and admiration for what Dr. Stanwick has done with [Tiger$ense]. Since coming to Auburn, she has touched countless students, always encouraging them to think beyond the classroom and the moment.”

        Alumnus Greg Peoples (Finance ’96), who took classes with Sarah and Peter and later developed a friendship with them while attending Auburn sporting events, fondly described Sarah as a mother hen.

        “She was always interested and genuinely concerned about how things went with each student,” said Peoples, who is retiring soon from a career investigating fraud, waste and abuse for the U.S. government. “She wanted to protect, guide and care for her students.”

         One of those individuals is accounting graduate student Tate Sparkman, who was a junior enrolled in Sarah’s managerial accounting course in the fall 2021 semester when his mother was tragically killed in a car accident.

        “I didn’t know what to do or who to call,” said Sparkman, who found Sarah’s phone number in the course syllabus and reached out to her for help and support the morning after his mother passed.

        Sarah helped the grieving Sparkman get excused absences from school and became his rock when he returned to campus, welcoming him into her office at any time and watching out for his overall well-being.

        “When I came back to Auburn I went into her office every day, because I didn’t have any family [nearby],” said Sparkman. “I would come in and go, ‘All right I’m struggling with this, so I’m going to talk to you.’ She did a lot for me and helped me get through everything I was struggling with. If it wasn’t for her, I would have dropped out.”

        Sparkman is now a graduate teaching assistant with Tiger$ense. As the lead operations and logistics person, he helped Sarah and 600 Auburn student volunteers host the largest Tiger$ense event this past October—an event that included more than 700 sixth-grade students from multiple Lee County schools. 

        Funding for Tiger$ense primarily comes from the generous support of Auburn alumna Brooke Peebles Walker (Accounting ’97 and ’98), senior director of sales tax at Chick-fil-A Inc.

        Although Walker didn’t take a class with either of the Stanwicks, she developed a friendship with the couple after Sarah brought some accounting students to her company’s support center and Peter subsequently invited Walker to speak to some of his classes.

        That friendship has had a ripple effect on her life, said Walker.

        “Beyond being exceptional educators, Sarah and Peter have become very special friends, whom I adore and admire,” said Walker, who has made substantial gifts to support Tiger$ense because she also values financial literacy. “Through them I had the opportunity to meet a number of students—one of whom I met during Sarah’s initial class visit and who has become a cherished friend and mentee.”

        Redemptive power of education

        The Stanwicks’ teaching extends beyond the Auburn campus. In 2019, Sarah began teaching Principles of Financial Accounting to inmates at Staton Correctional facility through the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, an Auburn initiative that educates incarcerated individuals across the state of Alabama.

        Sarah said she was impressed at how respectful, grateful and eager to learn the men were.

        “Being able to participate in this program is just an honor for them to be chosen to do that,” said Sarah. “But I think it's more of an honor for us to have been chosen to help educate them because I believe it takes a special person to go into the prison like we do.”

        Inspired by Sarah’s enthusiasm for the program, Peter began teaching Principles of Management in 2022. This past year, he also taught the same course at Tutwiler Prison for Women—a commitment that had him traveling weekly to both facilities about an hour west of Auburn.

        “Peter and Sarah are both so authentically kind and genuine in their desire to help people learn,” said Kyes Stevens, founder and director of the program. “They carry that energy into the classroom at Staton, and the students love their classes intensely.” 

        According to Peter, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching in the program revolves around his lectures on entrepreneurship.

        “Entrepreneurship becomes an epiphany moment for those students because they see where they can control their lives, where they don't have to check the box in an application asking whether they are a convicted felon,” said Peter. “It’s very intrinsically satisfying to me that I've been able to help guide them so that they can see a future outside once they finish their sentence and be able to be productive people in society.

        The first cohort of men will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies on December 16 at the correctional facility, and Peter and Sarah said they’re honored to attend, especially since they served as thesis advisors to two of the 11 graduates.

        Stanwick family posing with Aubie in park

        Peter and Sarah raised their two children, Olivia and John pictured here with Aubie, in Auburn.

        Their next chapter

        Their decision to retire was fueled, in part, by health issues during the past two years. Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully completed surgery and treatments during the past year. Peter had knee replacement surgery and during his recovery, he began thinking about how much they love to travel.

        You don't know how many more healthy years you have, where you can travel and be active, noted Peter, who easily convinced Sarah that the time had come to retire.

        Sarah and Peter will launch this next phase of life traveling to London with their children—a tradition they’ve had for years—followed by a trip for just the two of them to Peru.

        This spring and next, they will travel across the country to watch their son John, a junior majoring in computer engineering at Purdue University, play goalie for the school’s lacrosse team.

        “We’re going to seize those two seasons, where we can watch him and his team play,” said Peter, recalling the days of accompanying John across Alabama and Georgia when he was involved in youth travel teams.

        Their daughter Olivia graduates with a degree in special education from Auburn in May 2024.

        Stanwick family on HHH terrace

        Today, Olivia is studying special education at Auburn, while John is studying computer engineering at Purdue.

        The couple has one final distinction that likely very few other faculty can boast about. They have both presented papers at conferences with their children.

        Peter and John presented a paper on entrepreneurship in December 2022, while Sarah and Olivia presented a paper on how to best teach financial literacy in the special education classroom. This past summer, Sarah did a joint presentation with both children at a conference for future educators on getting ready to leave for college.

        “You know, there’s not one thing we would have changed about our careers. We have loved every minute of being a part of the Auburn Family. Most importantly, we have loved the wonderful people we’ve met during our careers.” Sarah said.  

        Added Peter, “We could have chased the money, we could have gone to different universities, but Auburn was the place for us—it was the place for our children to grow up.”


        The Harbert College of Business which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.