Energy entrepreneur and Villanova resident Harry Halloran Jr. has donated $10 million to further the study of business ethics at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn.

Halloran, 68, is the chairman and chief executive officer of American Refining Group Inc. and founder and chief executive of Energy Unlimited Inc., both in Conshohocken. He also owns several other companies.

"There's a role of business that goes beyond profitability," Halloran said in a telephone interview yesterday from a wind-energy conference in Houston. "My understanding of that led me to the awareness of what is called business ethics, but what I like to call the positive impact of business on society."

Halloran graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in civil engineering. After graduating, he entered an Augustinian seminary for four years, earning a master's degree in theology.

He left the seminary nine months short of the priesthood and worked in religious education, before entering his father's construction business.

Halloran said that businesses already did so much good for society, but that rogue businesses gained all the attention.

"Harry has a long-term interest in corporate ethics," said T. Dean Maines, who heads the Self-Assessment and Improvement Process Institute at the university's Opus School of Business, which is in Minneapolis. The institute will be the main beneficiary of the funds.

"His idea is that there ought to be some sort of process that would help companies move from aspiration into action, to help them put certain moral ideals into operation," Maines said.

Halloran's connections with St. Thomas began in 2000, after he met a professor at a conference.

His donation will help the institute promote a self-assessment methodology that helps companies detect the weaknesses and strengths of their ethical relationships with customers, shareholders, employees, and the larger community, Maines said.

About a third of the donation will fund a study, conducted by St. Thomas' Center for Ethical Business Cultures, of corporate business ethics since World War II.

American Refining Group manufactures petroleum extracts and resins oil produced at its Bradford refinery in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Energy Unlimited, a company involved in renewable energy, runs Frontier Wind, which services and develops wind farms.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.