Michael Gibbs ’79 talks about graduate school and striving for success

After receiving his master’s of business administration degree from Emory University in 1981, Michael Gibbs ’79 of San Antonio, Texas, found that working in the business world for 10 years – in both a large corporation and an entrepreneurial venture – paved the way for him to return to law school.

He now is vice president and general counsel for Whataburger, a 720-unit restaurant chain with about $1.2 billion in sales and 22,000 employees. He assists department vice presidents with contracts, deals directly with franchisees, works with senior management on governance and strategic planning, and supervises the rest of the legal work, including litigation, employment, intellectual property, benefits, regulatory, and real estate development.

“I had no grand design to become general counsel for a company,” Gibbs says. “In fact, if not for Professor Paul Schoofs, I probably would not have gone to graduate school and my life may have turned out very differently. It is the faculty’s personal interest in students at a liberal arts college like Ripon that is absent at larger universities and for which I am so thankful.”

For him, Gibbs says, the law provides “a steady stream of distinct accomplishments; every time we execute a contract, close a deal, roll out new menus, or reorganize our enterprise structure as we grow. I also find great satisfaction in providing counsel that influences the strategic corporate direction.”

For society, he says, the rule of law provides “protection of our individual liberties, and unalienable rights ‘endowed by our Creator,’ as our Declaration of Independence so eloquently put it. But it also enables the ordered exercise of private property rights and the power to contract, which fuels the engine of free markets.”


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