01 Aug 2001
Robert B. Stobaugh (DBA '68)
Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration, EmeritusTopics:
In June, the School conferred its highest honors, the Distinguished Service Award and the Alumni Achievement Award, on four professors emeriti and five alumni, respectively. This is a profile of a Distinguished Service honoree.
On his way up the corporate ladder in the 1950s and 1960s, chemical
engineer Bob Stobaugh decided to pursue his true vocation: teaching.
"As a manager in the oil and chemical industries, I often needed to
explain complex business problems to my coworkers," Stobaugh says. "I
found that I enjoyed the educational process." It was
a discovery that would lead to a distinguished thirty-year career at HBS.
An Arkansas native who began his
education in a two-room schoolhouse,
Stobaugh entered Louisiana State University at 15 and earned his
bachelor's degree in 1947. He then spent eighteen years working for
Exxon, Caltex, and Monsanto in the United States, Venezuela, Bahrain,
and England. While in Texas with Monsanto, he noticed that the top
managers had technical degrees but little training in business
administration and economics. Sensing an opportunity for advancement,
he enrolled in night classes at the University of Houston. "This
proved to be an important experience," states Stobaugh, "because I
realized how much I had missed the academic world of discussion and
Encouraged by his professors, Stobaugh entered the Harvard DBA
Program in 1965 at the age of 37. He earned his doctorate three years
later and became a tenured professor in 1971. In addition to teaching
in the MBA and Executive Education Programs, he chaired the School's
Doctoral Programs for almost six years.
Postings on four continents with multinational corporations had given
Stobaugh a practical foundation for his scholarly interest in global
business issues. In 1971, he led an HBS team that found that overseas
investment by American companies benefited the U.S. economy by
increasing exports and creating higher-paying jobs in this country.
His testimony on Capitol Hill helped defeat bills aimed at
restricting U.S. foreign investment.
Stobaugh's other research and teaching activities have focused on
technology, energy, and corporate governance. He has authored,
coauthored, or coedited fifteen monographs and books, and he gained
considerable renown as director of the HBS Energy Project from 1972
to 1983. Stobaugh coedited the project's groundbreaking book, Energy
Future: Report of the Energy Project at the Harvard Business School. "We maintained that
conservation could actually contribute
to domestic economic growth - with less risk from the disturbances in
the international oil markets," he says.
In his recent research on corporate governance, Stobaugh found that
board members of the best-performing companies frequently owned
substantial amounts of stock in the firms they oversaw. In 1995, he
chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission
of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), whose
recommendations dramatically increased stock ownership by corporate
Retired from the active faculty since 1996, Stobaugh continues to
write, consult, and serve on NACD Blue Ribbon panels. He is also a
trustee of the French Library and Cultural Center in Boston.
Stobaugh became a teacher because he enjoyed delving into difficult
issues and finding workable solutions. "I am grate-ful," he says,
"that my decision to change careers many years ago led me to this