BOSTON — Harvard Business School Dean Jay O. Light announced today that he will retire in June 2010 following a distinguished forty-year career as a teacher, scholar, and leader. Light is the ninth person to serve as dean since the School's founding in 1908.
In a message to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Light noted that the timing felt right, even if the decision did not come easily. "There are significant opportunities and exciting challenges ahead for the School," said Light, the George F. Baker Professor of Administration. "I believe it is time to let a new dean guide the future path of this very special institution." Light expressed his deep appreciation to the HBS community, commenting, "I will always cherish the opportunity I was given to lead this distinctive and extraordinary place, and value the important work we accomplished together."
Long a key figure in the academic leadership of HBS, Light, 68, served as chair of the School's finance unit from 1986 to 1988, then as senior associate dean and director of faculty planning from 1988 to 1994. In 1998, he was appointed senior associate dean responsible for strategic planning and new initiatives. He continued in that position until taking on the dean's role in 2005.
Light thanked President Drew Faust for her support and for the spirit of collaboration she brings to the presidency. "I have enjoyed working with Drew very much," he noted. "I have great confidence in her leadership of the University and in the process she will direct to choose the next dean of Harvard Business School."
"Jay Light has been an exemplary leader in a school devoted to the understanding and practice of leadership," said Faust. "In his years as dean, and throughout his decades at Harvard, he has done a great deal to define the distinctive character of Harvard Business School and to guide its course in everything from MBA education to innovative executive programs, from global engagement to initiatives in health care and science. He has also been a strong and influential voice within our deans' council on matters of university-wide concern, and someone whose organizational and financial expertise has long benefited not just the Business School but the University more generally. He has been and will remain a valued colleague and friend, and I'm very grateful for his remarkable career of service to Harvard."
Light has led HBS through some of its most memorable and most challenging times. He oversaw Harvard Business School's centennial celebration in 2008, culminating in the Global Business Summit, which brought together nearly 2,000 alumni to examine issues including globalization and the changing role of capitalism in the world economy. Additionally, faculty colloquia throughout the year explored topics ranging from advancing leadership as an intellectual discipline to entrepreneurship and creativity to the future of social enterprise.
The global economic crisis that unfolded that same year posed a new set of tests for the School. Light led a swift and successful effort to scale back expenses and reset the budget. He also mobilized a group of faculty experts in finance and economics to lead the School's research into the causes of the crisis, creating a range of new courses, cases, executive education offerings, and student activities.
During Light's tenure as dean there have been important developments in the School's MBA program, including the launch of the January term and the development of global Immersion Experience Programs (faculty-led seminars in selected regions of the world). He has worked to initiate and develop joint degree programs with the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Medical School, and to strengthen the existing program with the Harvard Law School. In the area of entrepreneurship, the entrepreneurs-in-residence program has expanded significantly, the business plan competition has grown and now includes a track for social and not-for-profit ventures, and new specialized courses and field study opportunities have been introduced. In the doctoral programs, the number of students admitted and supported each year has risen, with greater numbers of graduates going on to careers at leading business schools. Executive education offerings also have increased substantially, including new programs in China, Europe, and India. Moreover, Light has supported investments in technology to enhance and differentiate the School's executive education portfolio and pursued a successful strategy focused on building the longer Comprehensive Leadership Programs, countering industry trends.
Light's vision for the School has always emphasized, first and foremost, building a talented faculty and staff, and then leading them in important strategic initiatives. One such effort, the Global Initiative, has expanded through the opening of a global research center in India (2006) and a new facility in Shanghai (scheduled for 2010), the latter developed in partnership with the Harvard China Fund. Initiatives that address systemic societal issues have garnered widespread recognition for HBS under Light's leadership. In health care, for example, the School broke new ground with the integrated MD/MBA program, new elective courses in the MBA curriculum, and the launch of several executive programs for management teams from the world's top medical centers - including many in Boston. Light has also led efforts to invest in emerging interdisciplinary areas such as science-based business and the environment.
Light earned a bachelor's degree in engineering physics with highest honors from Cornell in 1963 and then worked in satellite guidance and systems planning at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. He enrolled in the doctoral program in decision and control theory at Harvard in 1966, earning his doctorate four years later. He joined the faculty of HBS in December 1969. After a brief leave of absence from 1977 to 1979 to serve as director of investment and financial policies for the Ford Foundation, he returned to a full professorship at HBS. His research and teaching interests have focused on capital markets and institutional asset management as well as the entrepreneurial management of technology companies. In his four decades at HBS he has taught many thousands of students in the MBA, doctoral, and executive education programs.
Light is a director of the Harvard Management Company, a director of Partners HealthCare and chairman of its investment committee, a member of the investment committee of several endowments, a director of several private firms, and an advisor/trustee to several corporate and institutional pools of capital.
Faust said she would soon launch a search for the next HBS dean. "I intend to consult widely in the search for Jay's successor, and will be in touch with the Business School community in the time ahead to welcome advice on the School, its future, and prospective candidates for dean," she said. "For today, I hope you will join me in saluting Jay and letting him know how much we appreciate all he has done, and continues to do, for HBS and for Harvard as a whole." Advice on the search may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.