The Gold Standard
DuPont’s recently retired Tom Sager
has a pretty simple M.O.—“Do better”
BY PATRICK PAWLING
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LUIGI CIUFFETELLI
IT HAPPENED DURING FRATERNITY RUSH AT THE
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1970.
Tom Sager, a sophomore and rush chairman for Beta
Theta Pi, had to vote on a promising pledge who was a
Morehead Scholar. The kid was articulate, athletic—the
whole package. But others on the rush committee said
if the young man was accepted, their parents would
surely make them leave the fraternity.
The student was African-American.
“I buckled,” Sager admits. “I went along with the flow.”
It wasn’t a proud moment. But Sager promised
himself he would do better.
As general counsel of DuPont, a post from which
he retired in August 2014, Sager had the chance
to do that. Not only did he help innovate corporate
law as the father of the DuPont Legal Model—think
alternative fees, convergence, increased reliance
on temporary staffing, early case assessment,
paralegal utilization, bonuses for speed, creativity and
collaboration and a recovery initiative to aggressively
protect DuPont’s assets—he also became a champion
of diversity and inclusion.