John L. Nau III

McClane Leadership in Business Award winner John L. Nau III speaks Monday night at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Dave McDermand/The Eagle

John L. Nau III, chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors LP, says in his experience, education and an eye toward history are key to a career of successful leadership.

An avid supporter of historical and conservation efforts across the state and nationwide, as well as a prominent businessman, Nau said Monday he views history as the "greatest teacher of all."

"It's more than a story of the past, it's a guidepost to the future," Nau said. "It can and should be studied, learned and applied to our lives, whether it's in business or running a home. ... Don't just study the past; learn from it. History is of little importance, studying leaders is of little importance, if you don't take some wisdom from it."

The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy at Texas A&M's Bush School of Government and Public Service presented Nau with the 2017 McLane Leadership in Business Award on Monday evening during a nearly hourlong ceremony at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. 

Nau was selected for the honor because of his "commitment to civic and philanthropic service, in particular for his advocacy for the study and preservation of American history," according to Texas A&M University officials.

"Mr. Nau's commitment to service is apparent not only through his excellent leadership in his organization but also through a broad spectrum of civic, community and philanthropic organizations in Houston and throughout the country," said Lori L. Taylor, director of the Mosbacher Institute, in introducing Nau.  

The McLane Leadership in Business Award was established by Drayton McLane Jr., a noted entrepreneur and chairman of the McLane Group, a high-technology firm, as a way to recognize prominent figures for their contributions to business, public service or community service at the national level. Recipients have included Chuck Norris, Lowry Mays and Carlos M. Gutierrez.

In addition to his work with Silver Eagle Distributors -- the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch in the U.S. -- Nau also is chairman of the Texas Historical Commission and the steering committee for the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area. He previously served as the presidentially appointed chairman of the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation from 2001-2010.

During the ceremony, Nau shared with the audience stories of how he first became interested in history, the path that led him to  Silver Eagle Distributors, and the way in which he tries to approach both business and philanthropy with open communication and a desire to make lives better. 

"My life today continues to be focused on the same two goals it's been focused on for years: Making a profit -- yes, there's nothing wrong with that -- but more importantly it's about making a difference," Nau said. "Spend your career building lives, and you will reap dividends with that investment for years to come."

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