20 Feb 2009
Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Martin V. Marshall Dies at 86
Marketing expert was key figure in the School's entrepreneurship efforts
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Professor Emeritus Martin V. Marshall
Photo Credit: Richard A. Chase

BOSTON — Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Martin V. Marshall, a driving force in the development of the School's Owner/President Management Program (OPM) for entrepreneurs and a marketing and advertising expert whose practice-oriented approach to teaching and course development left a lasting impact on countless Harvard MBA students and business leaders, died on Feb. 16 in Napa, California. He was 86 years old.

"Marty Marshall was a terrific teacher," said Stephen A. Greyser, the School's Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, who was an MBA student of Marshall's and then became a longtime friend and colleague. "Marty would home in on the topic at hand and not let students wiggle or wriggle off their previous statements," Greyser remembered. "He pursued the point by pressing the students, but without being mean spirited."

Marshall joined the HBS faculty in 1949 and was later named the first Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration. He retired from the active faculty in 1993.

He produced some 200 cases and teaching notes as well as several books, including Automatic Merchandising and Cases in Advertising Management. Despite his numerous achievements in the Harvard MBA program, he was best known for his work with the Owner/President Management Program, where he had a loyal and close following among generations of entrepreneurs and helped adapt the curriculum to meet changing participant needs and interests. Many OPM participants kept in touch with him long after they had graduated, often seeking his advice on difficult business decisions.

Marshall began teaching in OPM in the late 1970s, when it was known as the Smaller Company Management Program (SCMP). As program head, he changed the curriculum after noticing that participants no longer represented just small companies, but firms that might be multi-million-dollar enterprises. He also helped devise a unique schedule spread over three years and changed the name of the program to reflect the common thread among participants--their role as both owners and managers.

In succeeding years, Marshall continued to tailor OPM to its constituents, including his tradition of providing them with "marketing yellow sheets"-valued summaries he wrote after each class that contained observations not only on the subjects he taught but salient management topics in general. He also helped establish biannual, participant-organized OPM reunions, events that he often attended both on the HBS campus and at other locations around the world.

Marshall's career was varied and full at HBS and beyond. He taught in almost every educational program at the School, including the Advanced Management Program for senior executives. He also initiated major on-campus executive education programs in marketing management -- two for advertising and broadcasting professional organizations and the third catering to international businesspeople. "He provided a terrific linkage to the world of advertising and marketing," noted Professor Greyser.

To expand his global view of business, Marshall worked with management schools in Europe, Japan, India, Mexico, and Australia. In addition, he led several important policy-making committees and was on the faculty of the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration (HRPBA), a one-year graduate program for women taught by Harvard Business School professors at Radcliffe College until 1963. At the urging of his first wife, the late Rosanne Borden (herself an HRPBA graduate and the daughter of HBS professor Neil H. "Pete" Borden), he spearheaded the effort in the 1960s to make the two-year MBA program at HBS coeducational.

When Marshall first came to Harvard Business School in 1943 as part of his U.S. Navy training, he had no intention of remaining for any length of time. In fact, he had no apparent interest in business. An avid history buff who had read most of his college history texts while still in high school, he had intended to pursue a career in law. An economics major at the University of Missouri (Class of 1943), he tested the waters by taking several law classes. He even applied to several law schools.

But service in World War II intervened. After enlisting in the Navy, he was sent to officers school at Columbia University, then reassigned to HBS, where he completed the first year of the MBA program before going on active duty from 1944 to 1946. "Having been in lecture classes in college, I was astonished by the way HBS professors conducted case discussions. It was my first true experience in thinking - and I loved it," he remarked with characteristic candor.

Marshall's management experience in military logistics and supply convinced him to return to Harvard to complete his MBA when the war ended. Earning his degree in 1947, he was asked to stay on at the School as a case writer in marketing, working with seminal HBS marketing faculty such as Melvin Copeland, Malcolm McNair, and Pete Borden. When Borden became ill unexpectedly (and eventually took a leave of absence), he asked Marshall to teach his advertising class - a responsibility not normally entrusted to a case writer. Marshall embraced the challenge and buoyed by the experience, embarked on a doctorate at the School, which he completed in 1953.

Martin Vivan Marshall was born on July 22, 1922, in Kansas City, Missouri. He gained his first exposure to the basic principles of marketing while working as a stock boy at a Safeway grocery store to help pay his way through college. "In 1939, one of Safeway's five milk suppliers offered me a few dollars a week to keep restocking his milk on the right side of the display case," Marshall remembered. "When the milk kept moving out of the right side but not the left, I realized the supplier simply recognized that most people reach with their right hand to grab the closest bottle. That's when I first became intrigued with human behavior and how it can be influenced--and with the basic concept of marketing."

Marshall received a Distinguished Service Award from Harvard Business School in 1998 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the School and the field of business education. The citation accompanying the award read in part: "You have provided people with directions for success in business and in life. Magnificent motivator and mentor, you have taught us all that education for executives should know no end."

Marshall continued to teach executives almost until the end of his life, moving from a Boston suburb to a condominium in Cambridge so that he could be closer to HBS. In addition, he was a consultant to several multinational corporations, including Sears Roebuck, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, and American Express. He also served on the board of Youth Services International, which provides care and developmental services for at-risk youth.

Most recently, Marshall resided in a retirement community in the wine country north of San Francisco, where his wife, Hildegard Doherty (an OPM alumna), owns several restaurants. In a recent profile in the Harvard Business School Bulletin, he reminisced about the fullness of his life and career. "It's all been very interesting," he said. "I've had a wonderful time."

In addition to his wife, Marshall is survived by his sister, Marietta Siegrist, of Overland Park, Kansas; three sons, Martin D. Marshall and his wife, Debra Terzian, of Sudbury, Mass., Michael Marshall and his wife, Susan, of North Salem, NY, and Neil Marshall of Waltham, Mass.; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Burial will be private. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Professor Neil H. Borden-Rosanne Borden Marshall Financial Aid Fund, c/o Kerry Cietanno, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time​ programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 80 open enrollment Executive Education programs and more than 60 custom programs. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who have shaped the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.​​​​