28 Oct 2011

Harvard Business School Names Building after Media Pioneer Frank Batten


BOSTON—Harvard Business School (HBS) has named a building on its Soldiers Field campus in honor of leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Frank Batten (MBA 1952). The building at 125 Western Avenue in Allston that formerly housed public broadcasting's WGBH studios will now be called Batten Hall.

The first floor of Batten Hall houses the Harvard University Innovation Lab (i-lab), a University-wide space that brings together members of the community from across Harvard and within Boston who share an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. Floors two and three are home to ten HBS classrooms used in support of team-based activities in its educational programs.

"We have long thought that this space would be a fitting tribute to Frank Batten's legacy of leadership," said Dean Nitin Nohria, "given his passion for media and his role in building Landmark Communications into a significant multimedia enterprise. And in fact, we are able to marry this passion with his love for entrepreneurship and his lifelong commitment to education. We are fortunate that someone so exemplary in his life and his career will be memorialized on our campus in this way. We're grateful that in addition to supporting Culver Academies, the University of Virginia, and Old Dominion (among many other schools and institutions), Frank Batten included us in his generosity as well."

Batten, a visionary entrepreneur and business leader who built Norfolk, Virginia-based Landmark Communications, Inc., into a multimedia enterprise consisting of dozens of newspapers and specialty publications, several television stations, and The Weather Channel, donated $32 million to Harvard Business School in 2003 as part of its capital campaign. The gift was made in support of the ongoing renewal and enhancement of Harvard Business School's residential campus.

Born in Norfolk, Va., in 1927, Batten began his newspaper career at the age of 16, when he worked as a copyboy for the Virginian-Pilot, the daily newspaper owned by an uncle who had raised him when his father died while he was still an infant. After serving in the Merchant Marine near the end of World War II and graduating from the University of Virginia and Harvard Business School, Batten returned to his uncle's business, which by then included both the Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Dispatch, as a reporter and ad salesman. Appointed publisher two years later at the age of 27, Batten began to make his mark on both the business and the community.

He then went on to forge a long and distinguished career in the media, including the founding The Weather Channel. In 2002, Batten chronicled this venture in a book, The Weather Channel: The Improbable Rise of A Media Phenomenon (coauthored by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank; Harvard Business School Press). Batten headed Landmark Communications for 44 years and was chairman of The Associated Press from 1982 to 1987. In 1998, Harvard Business School presented him with its highest honor, the Alumni Achievement Award. "You have reached the pinnacle of your profession," said the accompanying citation. "Your life is a landmark to admirers of courage and conviction."

Frank Batten died on September 10, 2009 in Norfolk, Virginia, at the age of 82.


Zeenat Potia

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 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.