18 Jul 2022

Professor Emeritus J. Ronald Fox Dies at the Age of 92


Former faculty member Ronald Fox
J. Ronald (Ron) Fox

J. Ronald (Ron) Fox, the Jaime and Josefina Chia Tiampo Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, and former assistant secretary of the Army, passed away on May 12, 2022, at the age of 92.

Fox enrolled in the MBA Program at Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1957, after attending Le Moyne College as an undergraduate and serving in the U.S. Navy. Upon graduating in 1959, he served as a research assistant to a favorite professor, J. Sterling Livingston; the two of them founded Management Systems Corporation in 1960. Following work at the Pentagon as deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for management systems, Ron rejoined the faculty in 1965 to teach a course in project management while he pursued a doctorate in psychology at Harvard. Upon graduating in 1969, he accepted a full-time faculty position, only to be called once again by the Pentagon to serve as assistant secretary of the Army. He rejoined the faculty and completed Arming America, the first of many influential books; after one more stint in a successful private venture, he returned to HBS in 1977 and became a tenured faculty member in 1982—a position he held until his retirement in 1990.

A member of the General Management Unit, Ron served as its chair; he also was senior associate dean for faculty development. Professor Emeritus Dwight B. Crane recalled:

“I had the privilege of succeeding Ron as senior associate dean for faculty development at HBS. This was a hard job that included managing the review process in which non-tenured faculty were evaluated and then promoted or counseled to move to another institution. Ron was the right person for this job. He cared deeply about the individual faculty members and he brought a high degree of professionalism and diligence to the review process. These traits helped him bring the needed balance to these difficult and sometimes painful career decisions.”

In June 2001, HBS honored Fox with its Distinguished Service Award. At that time, Ron said that his proudest accomplishment was to serve an institution and colleagues that gave so much to him. Harvard Business School provided him with the chance to go out and study how things work and then bring those experiences into the classroom.

Professor Emeritus Warren MacFarlan noted:

“Ron delivered important MBA courses on the interface of government and business, which capitalized on the experiences he had had during his long periods of public service. Ron was also a gifted administrator, whose impact was felt over an extended period of time regarding the hiring of faculty and working out appropriate assignments for them to optimize their success at the School. He became deeply involved in the appointments process. Ron was highly respected by his colleagues for his judgment in these areas. You often did not like Ron’s advice, but you learned to respect it. He was almost always, in retrospect, correct.”

Fox’s government service earned him the Exceptional Civilian Service Award from the Air Force and the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from the Army, where over four decades, he worked to improve the professionalism of project managers throughout the Department of Defense. He continued to write after retirement, with his last book, Defense Acquisition Reform, published in 2012.

Upon retirement from the faculty in 1990, Fox he returned to his roots in the Syracuse, NY, area and settled in Cazenovia with his wife, Dorris, who was at his side upon his passing. Read his full obituary.

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