Jaikumar Dies While Climbing

After an academic career that took him from the Himalayas to Harvard, Business School professor Ramachandran Jaikumar died last week of a heart attack while mountain climbing in Ecuador.

Daewoo Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (HBS), Jaikumar suffered a fatal heart attack on Tuesday, Feb. 10. He was 53 years old.

Jaikumar's work focused on manufacturing management and technology.

Colleagues and students said Jaikumar was well-known as both a skilled teacher and scholar.

Joy Chang, a first-year student at the Law School, expressed admiration yesterday for her former instructor.


"He was really a remarkable teacher," Chang said. "He was a great example of what a real business leader could be."

Chang described Jaikumar, known to friends simply as "Jai," as a trusted student ally.

"He would say, if you haven't done the work, just tell me," said Chang.

"He took dumb questions along with good ones and answered them both with a lot of respect. He will be remembered for his kindness and his humor."

Faculty colleagues at HBS also offered high praise for Jaikumar's teaching.

"Jai cared greatly about what his students learned and it showed every time he entered the classroom," said Roy D. Shapiro, Phillips professor of manufacturing at HBS. "He set high standards. His students loved him."

During his lifetime, Jaikumar developed a distinguished career in research as well. Described as a pioneer in the study of certain types of manufacturing systems, he most recently explored minimalist architecture for manufacturing.

Jaikumar's doctoral advisor, Professor Marshall Fisher of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, described Jaikumar as "a truly unique individual." Jaikumar and Fisher had worked together for nearly 25 years.

"His influence on the academic field of operations management and on industrial practice has been profound," Fisher said.

Jaikumar taught several elective classes at HBS, in addition to a course in technology operations and management required for a Masters degree in business administration.

The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Jaikumar was widely published. In addition, he served as an advisor to two congressional committees.

Jaikumar came to the Business School in 1980 after receiving degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology, Oklahoma State University and the Wharton School.

Mountain climbing was one of Jaikumar's favorite pursuits. A guide in the Himalayas during his college years, Jaikumar climbed a 23,000-foot peak in 1966.

Last year, he became the first person to reach the top of a remote peak in Greenland. Jaikumar then named the peak "Minarjnik" after his wife Mrinalini Mani, and his two sons, Arjun and Nikhil.

A memorial service will be held in Jaikumar's honor today at 3:30 p.m. at Memorial Church.

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