In 1919 President Lowell asked Wallace B. Donham--then a prominent Boston banker--to give up his financial career and come to Cambridge as dean of the almost non-existent Harvard School of Business Administration. Lowell promised his support during its rebuilding so Donham agreed. He took charge that fall.
One of his first appointments was that of Donald K. David as his assistant dean. Since then, over 35 years in varying capacities, these two men have seen the school grow from three basements in the Yard to what President Conant has called "a great educational enterprise."
Last week Donham died at the age of 77 and David, who succeeded him as dean in 1942, announced he will retire from office this summer.
David's announcement follows by a month the completion of his "Twenty Million Dollar Effort" to stabilize and consolidate the school. The drive was climaxed when the Ford Foundation gave $2,000,000 for expanded teacher training, busines research, and two professorships. The grant put the school on its most solid financial foundation in nearly 25 years and rounded out the Dean's ambitious plans for reorienting the curriculum and school's objective to post-war business conditions. "I think this is a good time for a young and vigorous leader to take over," he said.
In one sense the coincidence of Donham's death and David's retirement marks the end of an era in the school's history. But in another it illustrates the forward momentum these two men have given the school. Like the distinguished Professor Melvin T. Copeland, many feel that "as long as the school is an alive institution it will never come to the end of an era." Instead, they foresee a period of consolidation when the curriculum and research programs will mature.
This present healthy condition is unusual for the 46-year old school, particularly during the transition of deans. When Donham took charge in 1919 he faced the job of creating a business school from a handful of students and two professors. And when David assumed its leadership at the start of World War II, he had to keep the faculty intact and then undertake major academic and financial programs for postwar adjustment.
Over their combined administrations, the school has modestly refrained from boasting of its achievements. But there are few people today who will hesitate to grant it first place in its field. A fitting tribute comes from the Dean of the Bernard M. Baruch School of Business and Public Administration at C.C.N.Y. Dean Thomas L. Norton writes:
"For nearly half a century the Harvard School of Business Administration has held a commanding place in the field of collegiate education for business. It's influence has been tremendous and its leadership has left an impact on higher education."
Norton, who is President of the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business, includes among its unique contributions the case method, encouragement of human relations in business teaching, the Advanced Management Program, Trade Union Program, and of course, its graduates who have given the school an "enviable record."
These are the legacies which David leaves the new administration. He also leaves a strong faculty which is convinced that a vaste job lies ahead. As associate Dean Stanley F. Teele puts the school's future, "our view is that our great progress under Dean David only reveals the distance we have to go."
Reviewing the 35 years Donham and David have devoted separately and together to building the school, this progress appears considerable.
In 1919, when Donham became dean, neither a strong faculty nor a leadership tradition existed. In fact, the school itself hardly existed. Scattered in every nook and cranny of the University, it had no money, a skeleton faculty, an inadequate curriculum, and an unrealistic approach to business education.
Donham's assistant David watched the 42-year old banker set about what Professor Georges F. Doriot calls "the courageous job of taking us out of three basements and making us into a school."