Business school named for John M. Olin

The following is an archived story announcing the renaming of the business school. The article was first published in the Business School News in 1988. 

William E. Simon, president of the John M. Olin Foundation, and Chancellor William H. Danforth have announced a grant of $15 million from the foundation to Washington University to name the John M. Olin School of Business.

The largest grant ever made by the John M. Olin Foundation, the gift honors the memory of a famous business leader and philanthropist—John Merrill Olin—who served as a Washington University trustee for 40 years.

John M. Olin

John M. Olin

“John M. Olin and his family have been dedicated to Washington University for more than a half century,” said Chancellor Danforth, “because they have seen the need for a major, private research university located in St. Louis. I am especially pleased that the foundation’s grant will help us develop a business school second to none.”

According to James Piereson, executive director of the foundation, the terms of the grant are that it be used to establish a permanent endowment to advance teaching and research. To receive the $15 million, Washington University must raise a matching amount of new gift support to the business school over the next five years.

“This wonderful development is a tribute to our thousands of alumni and friends,” said Robert L. Virgil, dean of the business school. “Their generosity and trust have supported the progress that has brought us to this point. If I had to single out one thing, it would be our magnificent new building, which symbolizes the high priority attached to having a leading school of business at Washington University. John E. Simon and Simon Hall were the catalysts.

“When combined with our current endowment, this grant could make the John M. Olin School of Business one of the best endowed in the nation,” Virgil added. As of June 30, 1987, the business school’s endowment was $29.1 million.

“We want to strengthen traditional areas within the School, as well as to enhance student understanding of the important areas of entrepreneurship, international business, and the relationship of business with law, economics, and politics—areas that are emerging in business education,” Virgil said.

Plans for the future

The endowment grant of $15 million from the John M. Olin Foundation, coupled with the matching funds Washington University is obliged to provide, will be used to improve the basic strengths of the School and develop distinctive programs.

Seventy years old, the business school is in a period of fundamental change initiated by the Business Task Force of the Commission on the Future of Washington University. In 1980-81, the task force recommended that having a nationally recognized business school should be a top priority for the 1980s and that Washington University should support vigorously the development of the resources needed to attain this objective.

With the task force’s recommendation as a guide, the John M. Olin School’s goals are as follows:
• To contribute to America’s economic strength by becoming recognized as one of the nation’s 10 leading research-oriented business schools.
• To build a faculty of scholars widely recognized for research and expertise by academic peers, prospective students, and practicing professionals.
• To increase the quality of MBAs to the level of the leading 10 or so MBA programs.
• To have Washington University become distinctive among major private universities for the highest quality in undergraduate business education.
• To produce PhD graduates widely sought by the faculties of other leading business schools.
• To continue to expand in management education.

Simon Hall under construction in 1984-85.

Simon Hall under construction in 1984-85.

Progress to date toward these goals has been considerable. One of the most dramatic signs of the School’s progress is John E. Simon Hall, the School’s fourth home since its establishment in 1917. Expansion in the student body and faculty, coupled with the changing requirements of high-quality business education, such as computing capabilities, resulted in a pressing need for expanded facilities.

Simon Hall, nearly four times larger than the School’s previous home, is a modern spacious building that will serve the business school community well into the 21st century.

Phase one of the School’s development—the provision of new facilities and the general strengthening of the School—has been completed. Fueled by the grant from the John M. Olin Foundation, the School now is planning for the next phase: to improve basic strengths and distinguish the School.

The equivalent of about two-thirds of the Olin grant will be directed to improving the basic strengths of the School, those areas where a business school claiming to be top rank must be strong. Faculty in certain areas will be strengthened by increasing the senior faculty by two each in economics, finance, and marketing. The School will compete for the absolutely best candidates and provide better financial aid for doctoral students for the full four or five years required to complete the program. Enrollment in the program will be expanded from the current 22 to 30-35 as the faculty grows.

In the undergraduate BSBA program, the School will further increase the gains made the last five years in the quality of the applicant pool. The objective is to have the most highly qualified undergraduate student body of any business school in America. Specifically, within five years, the goal is to have an applicant pool of 2,050, assuming an annual growth of 15 percent; an average SAT score of applicants at 1280; and 70 percent of the applicants in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school classes.
In the MBA program, the objective is to have an incoming class of 150 students with an average GMAT of 630 (the 91st percentile) within five years. This will necessitate an increase in the applicant pool from 700 to 1,300, allowing for an assumed decline in yield from the current 37.5 percent to 30 percent as the School comes even more into competition with the very best schools. A sizable additional investment in recruiting resources and financial aid will be required.

In making a major commitment in the School to research and development, resources will be devoted to faculty research, development, and scholarly activities. Reduced teaching loads, computer equipment, and research workshops are a few examples of this kind of support.

John E. Simon (second from left) with (left to right) W.L. Hadley Griffin, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees and chairman of the board of Brown Group, Inc.; Chancellor Danforth; and Charles F. Knight, university trustee, chairman of the Business School Task Force which reviewed the School in 1980-1981, and chairman and chief executive officer of Emerson Electric Co. at the reception to announce the naming of the new Business School building, John E. Simon Hall, in honor of Mr. Simon and his generous commitment.

New centers planned

The remaining one-third of endowment will be directed to pursuing two opportunities that will begin to distinguish the School and set it apart from other good business schools. These plans were important to the foundation in making its grant.

The first plan is to develop a research and teaching program on the conjunction of business with law, economics, and politics. In the last 10 years, one of the major developments in legal education has been the introduction of economic applications into legal analysis. Much of the important work in that regard has been seeded by grants to law schools by the John M. Olin Foundation. So far there has not been a great deal of involvement by business schools in university programs that exist in law and economics. The center in business, law, economics, and politics envisioned will be the first in a business school and also the first to have a managerial focus. Through research, new courses, and scholarship, it will emphasize how law, economics, and politics converge to affect the business firm, how companies are organized, how people within organizations behave, and how managers within companies make decisions.

Simon Hall today. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Simon Hall today. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

The second plan for distinguishing the School will be a management center, a bridge between the classroom and the dynamic business environment. The center will enhance the educational experiences of BSBAs and MBAs by focusing on developments, issues, and changes that do not fit naturally, timely, or conveniently into the classroom. The center’s ongoing emphasis will be the study of entrepreneurship and the international dimension of business. Other issues will be included as they are warranted.
The center will be experientially based, providing hands-on opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of international business and of starting, managing, and owning a business. Internships, research projects, overseas experiences, and executives in residence are just some examples of what might be offered. The center will assist faculty members to increase their expertise, conduct serious research, and develop curricular materials in areas that develop and progress so rapidly that they cannot be reflected effectively in the classroom. The center, too, is a concept now and will require fleshing out. But it will be developed so that it complements the classroom and contributes in a profound way to the professional education of the School’s students.

The School is in the process of forming a National Council to capture the advice, assistance, and reputation of distinguished business leaders, alumni, and friends. The council, which will be chaired by Charles F. Knight, chairman and chief executive officer of Emerson Electric Co., will monitor the School, assist the dean, serve as a communication link between the business community and the students and faculty of the School, enlist the leadership of others in the School’s behalf, and help broaden the School’s reputation nationally. Knight also chaired the Business Task Force.

“The naming of the School of Business could not have come at a better time,” said Chancellor William H. Danforth. “Many of the goals set six years ago have been achieved. The School was in the process of defining the real challenges. Now we have great advantages. First, the name of one of the greatest Americans of his era, John M. Olin, a personal friend and mentor from whom I learned a great deal. Second, the confidence of the very distinguished trustees of the John M. Olin Foundation led by William E. Simon, a man greatly respected by Mr. Olin. Third, we have a very significant addition to the endowment that will provide the income to underwrite the real steps in attaining ambitious goals.”

Photos courtesy of WashU Archives.

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