01 Dec 1999
Editor, 1955-1961by Dan Fenn Topics:
When Bulletin editor Deb Blagg asked if I would do a short piece for this special 75th anniversary issue, I said yes immediately. Sounds fun and easy, I thought. I was right about the former and dead wrong about the latter.
Where to start? Of course, with the bound volumes in my study. Big mistake! If I had not been given a deadline, I'd still be poring over the written record of the people and highlights of those eventful years. I'd be reading about Dean Stan Teele, a thoughtful, high-minded leader who saw the mission of the School and its graduates in terms of contribution to contemporary society in the United States and abroad. True to Teele's vision, as the Bulletin reported, HBS became involved in a variety of ways with management training programs at home and in countries such as Turkey, France, Switzerland, Manila, and Nicaragua. The yearlong Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration flourished under Teele, leading ultimately to the admission of women to the MBA Program in the 1960s.
The School marked its 50th anniversary with a megaconference - well covered by the Bulletin - on "Management's Mission in a New Society," which included keynote speeches by Vice President Richard Nixon and historian Arnold Toynbee. Responding to the Dean's interest in societal values, HBS sponsored a series of summer programs with the Divinity School and the Danforth Foundation, bringing together businessmen, union leaders, clergy, and business educators to think about the relationships between business, ethics, and religion. The Alumni Association became the engine for the concept of education as a "contin-uous voyage."
But such miscellaneous items one can find listed in a much more comprehensive fashion in a formal history of the School. More important is the tone and flavor of those years, suggested by articles such as "Today and Tomorrow" by Dean Teele; "Where Do We Go From Here?"; "The School Needs Overhauling"; (and in the next issue) "The School Needs Overhauling - or Does It?"; "The Boiling Pot of Business Education"; "What's Happening to the MBA?"; "The Approaching Sound of Change"; and "The Myth of the Successful Businessman."
As I thought about this piece, I recalled the many lively stories of interesting alumni: the publisher of the Old Farmer's Almanac; the uranium prospector turned stockbroker; the entrepreneurs who did not want their company to grow fast; the young graduate helping very small companies. But I had forgotten, until I reviewed those dusty bound volumes, the ferment, the controversy, the questing, and the confidence that the School could always be better, could do more, which marked those years.
And once again I took pride in an administration that gave the Bulletin's editor, somewhat reluctantly I recognize, the freedom to put out a magazine that reflected that challenging atmosphere, with all the criticism and self-criticism endemic to it. Stan Teele and Alumni Director Don Wright, plus heaven knows how many deans of various descriptions, resisted the classic temptation to make the Bulletin into a house organ, so transparently a mouthpiece for their perspectives that no one would ever read anything but the class notes. Their restraint was both a product and a stimulant of those days of change and movement.
(An adjunct lecturer in executive programs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Dan Fenn teaches in a variety of programs for government officials around the country. )