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John Harvard's Journal

Business School’s Guiding Light

July-August 2006

Jay O. Light, an expert in finance and investment management, was named dean of Harvard Business School (HBS)—the ninth since its founding in 1908—by President Lawrence H. Summers on April 24. Light, D.B.A. ’70, had been acting dean since August 1, 2005, after the departure of Kim Clark, who left to head Brigham Young University-Idaho. Although the search for a permanent successor was well under way when Summers announced his intention to resign, he consulted on Light’s selection with the Corporation and also with incoming interim president Derek Bok.

Stressing continuity despite the change in the school’s leadership, Light vowed to “keep the school at the leading edge of innovation in management education.” As senior associate dean, he worked closely with Clark on strategic planning and new initiatives, and he indicated that they had largely agreed on “the challenges that this institution faces.” Among those is the need “to make sure that our research agenda is exploring [and responding to] the changing nature of business around the world,” he said at a press conference following the announcement of his appointment. Since 1999, as part of its globalization strategy, HBS has opened five new international research centers that support “active programs of faculty research and case-writing”—the fruits of which become “part of our educational programs here.” The school also has an active program of “joint-venturing” with other business schools around the world, particularly in China. (It even produces cases and books in Chinese through its publishing arm.) But Light also stressed the importance of opportunities to collaborate “here at home” with other schools at Harvard. Given the opportunities to improve the management of healthcare organizations and healthcare delivery—a significant and growing component of the economy, he noted—“We have launched this year a joint M.D.-M.B.A. program with the medical school,” as well as “a healthcare initiative jointly with the medical school faculty.”

Light, the Robinson professor of business administration, graduated from Cornell in 1963 with a degree in engineering physics. He worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech and in management consulting before joining the HBS faculty in 1970, and has since held numerous senior management positions within the school. His professional, research, and teaching interests have focused on capital markets and institutional asset management, including the management of pension funds and endowments, as well as on the entrepreneurial management of technology companies. During a leave of absence from 1977 to 1979, Light was director of investment and financial policies for the Ford Foundation. He is now a director of Harvard Management Company, which oversees the University’s endowment, and of Partners HealthCare, which operates Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals. He also chairs Partners’ investment committee.

Describing Light as a person of exceptional integrity and judgment, Summers said: “In his own career as a teacher, case writer, and a scholar, and as a counselor to this organization and others, [Jay] embodies what is best about the Harvard Business School. He is...an outstanding citizen not just of this school but of the entire University.”