20 Jul 2022

Remembering Coyler Crum, Former Harvard Business School Professor


Colyer M. Crum

Colyer M. Crum, the James R. Williston Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, passed away on May 17, 2022. He joined the faculty as an instructor in 1962 and was tenured in 1971. He remained on the faculty in the Finance unit until his retirement in 1996.

Crum came to HBS after earning his undergraduate degree from Cornell; he graduated from the MBA Program as a Baker Scholar in 1960 and received his DBA in 1964. Over the course of his more than 30-year career, he was a teacher who inspired and a leader who embraced innovation. His work on the Investment Management course early in his tenure—incorporating timely and relevant cases and content—spurred enrollments to nearly 500 students per year; he also offered courses in corporate finance and bank lending and, reflecting his interest in international business, taught the required course on Business, Government, and the International Economy.

“Colyer would lead students on a journey to ferret out the most nefarious schemes behind the development of new securities designed to separate unwary investors from their money,” said William Fruhan, George E. Bates Professor, Emeritus. “The information was all there, you just needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Is the SEC your friend or your enemy in the way it demands full disclosure? So it was with Colyer. You tie up one end of an intellectual puzzle and three new ones appear. It never ended.”

“Colyer is well known for his teaching excellence. One of the sources of his success was his unique ability to ask questions,” Dwight Crane, George Fisher Baker Jr. Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus added. “In fact, it was hard to get an answer from him. But his questions challenged your way of thinking about an issue and gave you a new perspective. I often run into alumni at various HBS events. When I talk with alums who had Colyer as a teacher, they always remember him.”

HBS professor Colyer Crum speaking to students in a classroom

In Executive Education, he helped with the startup of the International Senior Managers Program in Switzerland and was active in the Advanced Management Program (AMP), Program for Management Development (PMD, the precursor to the General Management Program), and joint programs with Harvard’s Schools of Education, Government, and Public Health.

“Colyer was an extraordinary administrator. In the 1970s, he consolidated the various HBS executive programs into a single unit and created the Executive Education department,” said Warren McFarlan, Albert H. Gordon Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus. “Notably, on his watch, HBS launched the predecessor of the Owner/President Management Program (OPM), today one of the school’s most successful long Executive Education programs. He also spearheaded development of a large portfolio of short programs appropriately driving off campus a motley collection of mostly low-margin, low-quality private programs. He also ensured that these programs, which had the HBS brand on them, were delivered to HBS standards. This portfolio has continued to expand until today.”

Crum was a technology pioneer, developing a networked environment for PMD that enabled the production of online simulation models, early versions of groupware, and universal email. He also played a vital role in helping establish the Nomura School of Advanced Management in Tokyo, Japan.

“Coyler was an important contributor in helping speed up internationalization of the school’s faculty and curriculum,” McFarlan noted. “He was extraordinarily effective in helping faculty to understand why it was important enough for them to totally disrupt their lives and move their family overseas for two years.”

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