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Sloan looks to the future at 50th-anniversary celebration

Sloan dean Richard Schmalensee (left) welcomes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (S.F. 1972) to a reception on Oct. 10.
Sloan dean Richard Schmalensee (left) welcomes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (S.F. 1972) to a reception on Oct. 10.
Photo / L. Barry Hetherington

More than 1,000 alumni and friends returned to the MIT Sloan School of Management Oct. 10-12 to celebrate the school's 50th anniversary and ponder the future of management.

Speeches and panel discussions focused on the need for greater corporate responsibility and the importance of understanding and adapting to rapid changes in technology.

President Charles Vest and Richard Schmalensee, the John C. Head III Dean of Sloan, both underscored Sloan's pivotal role in shaping the field of management and developing management tools now deemed essential by businesses worldwide. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, a 1972 MIT Sloan Fellow, delivered the keynote address in Kresge Auditorium.

The event was as much a serious look at management's future as a celebration for Sloan alumni. Speakers Included General Motors chair and CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr., Boeing chairman and CEO Phil Condit, and Hewlett-Packard chair and CEO Carly Fiorina, a 1989 MIT Sloan Fellow.


Annan reflected on his close association with Sloan and highlighted the importance of corporate responsibility to the global community.

"Over the long run, human well-being can be dramatically advanced by well-functioning markets," said Annan, "but markets themselves cannot be sustained if they do not ensure human well-being."

At the heart of his message was an appeal for corporations to fulfill their obligations to the global community. The issue is at the forefront of his agenda at the United Nations.

In an age of interdependence, Annan said progress is possible only if people and nations have confidence that global markets and the international system in general are responding to their needs.

He highlighted the United Nations' Global Compact, which he proposed in 1999 as a way to help companies develop and promote global, values-based management and which he said is now gaining momentum.

"The Compact has become more than a call to action," said Annan. "Today, it involves not only businesses but also labor federations and nongovernmental organizations. It has promoted the importance of universal values and encouraged investors to look harder at opportunities in the least developed countries, particularly in Africa."


Fiorina said values-based management is vital to solve the crisis in public confidence triggered by recent corporate ethics breeches.

"If we are truly embarking on a new age of reform, leadership is not going to come from government or oversight organizations," she said. "True leadership must come from corporate America itself."

Fiorina said values-based management has helped sustain Hewlett-Packard, and she urged executives to embrace new corporate governance regulations as a return to fundamental values.

"The important thing is to understand that good corporate governance is not something that is being done to us. It is not something being foisted on us. The values we are being asked to live by today are the same values we used to build the strongest economy on earth. The values we are being asked to live by today are the same fundamental values we know we must act upon every day to build effective teams and companies - open doors and open access and open dialogue in the boardroom and on the shop floor, equity, consistency, alignment," she said.

GM, a sponsor of the event, provided an array of classic cars and concept cars from the 1950s and today. On display outside Kresge Auditorium, the cars drew crowds of celebration attendees and others from the MIT community.


The event culminated a yearlong celebration of Sloan's 50-year history of innovation and leadership in management theory and practice.

Though its roots date back to 1914 with the creation of Course XV, MIT Sloan was officially opened in 1952. It was funded and inspired by alumnus Alfred P. Sloan Jr., who saw the opportunity to apply MIT's rigorous approach to research to the problems of industry.

As Sloan had hoped, Sloan School faculty and alumni over the past 50 years have had a central role in shaping global business practices. In many ways, said Dean Schmalensee in welcoming attendees, the celebration marked the fulfillment of Sloan's vision.

"When MIT established the Sloan School in 1952, it charged Sloan with an ambitious mission: to change the way management is done," he said. "Looking back over these past 50 years, we've done a very good job of living up to that ambition."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 23, 2002.

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