What Knowledge is Useful? > Industries and Context
A timely professorship
Sometimes fields get traction, and become durable, because an endowment stands behind them.
Because HBS was founded in 1908 as a five-year experiment, Dean Edwin Gay knew that he had to find new sources of funding to keep the School going after 1913. The first good endowment-related news came in April 1912, when Edmund Cogswell Converse, president of Bankers Trust, gave $125,000 to establish a professorship to “give instruction and conduct or promote investigations in the subject of banking and finance.”
Thomas Lamont, then a member of J.P. Morgan & Co., had persuaded Converse to make the gift. “It is the first endowment that we have had for the Business School,” President Lowell wrote to Converse, acknowledging the gift, “and we have been, as you know, somewhat worried as to whether we should be able to get an endowment for that School which would be worthy of its object and its success.”
Banking and finance clearly were topics that a graduate school of business administration had to cover. But having an endowment toward that end made more things possible—and also obliged the School to conduct research and teaching in that field.