27 Sep 2011

Harvard Business School’s Rebecca Henderson Named University Professor

Expert on energy and the environment receives Harvard's highest faculty honor
Rebecca Henderson Photo: Russ Campbell

BOSTON—Rebecca M. Henderson, an expert on organizational responses to large-scale technical shifts, most recently in regard to energy and the environment, and currently the Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management at Harvard Business School, has been named the John and Natty McArthur University Professor by Harvard President Drew Faust, the University announced today. A University Professorship is the highest honor that can be bestowed on any Harvard faculty member. The McArthur chair honors former HBS dean John H. McArthur and his wife. A long-time member of the HBS faculty, McArthur served as the School's dean from 1980 to 1995.

"The University Professorships were established almost 80 years ago as a special way to recognize individuals of distinction who are working on the frontiers of knowledge in way that crosses traditional boundaries of academic disciplines," said President Faust in her announcement. "Rebecca Henderson was one of the first to recognize that profits and sustainability are not mutually exclusive, and that there are growth opportunities for companies that are committed to reducing their environmental footprints," Faust said. "Hers is a leading voice on the environmental challenges of our time."

"This is a tremendous honor for Rebecca, recognizing her dedication to teaching and groundbreaking scholarship that crosses academic boundaries," said Dean Nitin Nohria. "It's also wonderful for HBS as an ongoing reminder of the contributions John and Natty made to the School during John's tenure as dean and as a member of the faculty."

Henderson is the fifth member of the HBS faculty to be so honored. Michael E. Porter, an expert on the competitiveness of companies and countries, is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, and Robert C. Merton, a Nobel laureate in economics and now at MIT, is the McArthur University Professor Emeritus. The late Sumner H. Slichter, an authority on labor, and the late C. Roland Christensen, a co-founder of the field of strategy, held University chairs as well.

"I am thrilled by this honor," Henderson said. "We cannot address the environmental challenges we face without the active participation of the private sector, and at Harvard I'm surrounded both by an incredibly smart group of colleagues who are committed to finding ways to make this participation both possible and profitable, and by gifted students who are passionate about making a difference. It's an incredibly exciting time."

Henderson's career has long explored the organizational and strategic issues that well-established companies face in responding to significant technological and competitive shifts. But her recent research focuses particularly on the ways in which environmental crises present both challenges and opportunities for the private sector.

Along with her colleague Forest Reinhardt, the School's John D. Black Professor of Business Administration, Henderson is co-director of the recently launched Business and the Environment Initiative, a group that includes more than 40 faculty at Harvard Business School and that is actively collaborating with faculty from across the entire University.

With a joint appointment in the School's General Management and Strategy units, Henderson teaches the MBA Program's first-year required course Leadership and Corporate Accountability and the second-year field study seminar Building Green Businesses. She is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Henderson is co-editor, most recently, of Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors (University of Chicago Press for National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011). Her work has also been published in a number of scholarly journals, including Administrative Science Quarterly, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Strategic Management Journal, Management Science, Research Policy, The RAND Journal of Economics, and Organization Science.

Henderson received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 1981 and a doctorate in business economics from Harvard University in 1988. From 1998 to 2009, she was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she taught courses in strategy, technology strategy, and sustainability. She joined the HBS faculty in 2009.


Jim Aisner

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.