Since its dedication in 1953, Kresge Hall has been a familiar Harvard Business School landmark and a central gathering place for meals, meetings, and reunions. In keeping with the School’s emphasis on learning beyond the classroom, Kresge was designed to provide an environment where community members can exchange ideas with peers, scholars, and business practitioners from across the globe. Before Kresge, food service was located at Cowie Hall, a temporary structure built by the US Navy and sold to the School after World War II. Kresge was a considerable upgrade. The three-story, brick, 70,000-square-foot building was designed by Perry, Dean and Hepburn in the Georgian Revival style. An addition in the early 1970s by the firm of Kubitz and Pepi enlarged the second floor Faculty Club area, which was also used for Executive Education dinners. Since the 2001 opening of Spangler Center—the main student center and dining facility for MBAs—Kresge has increasingly been used for activities related to Executive Education.
Funds for the construction of Kresge Hall were donated in 1950 by Stanley S. Kresge on behalf of the Kresge Foundation, the philanthropic organization established by his father, Sebastian S. Kresge. The elder Kresge was a legendary retailing entrepreneur who founded a chain of five-and-ten-cent stores in the United States and Canada, parlaying the concept into the S.S. Kresge Company, an enterprise now known in the United States as Kmart.
The Kresge Foundation was established in 1924 to promote human progress through grants that help local communities raise funds for construction and renovation projects at libraries, hospitals, schools, museums, and community centers. The gift to HBS was the foundation’s first to a university and not only provided the funds for the construction of Kresge Hall, it also created a partial endowment for its activities.
Expressing the School’s gratitude for the gift in 1950, Dean Donald K. David said, “We are particularly grateful for this gift and are happy to have the endorsement of the trustees of the Kresge Foundation . . . whose founder has made such an outstanding contribution to the development of the science and art of merchandising.” Dean David believed the new building would help HBS “strengthen the informal student and faculty associations which mean so much in the development of our educational program.”
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