Darden: 50 years of developing business leaders
This weekend, the Darden Graduate School of Business kicks off a two-year celebration in honor of its 50th birthday that will span more than 50 cities and three continents.
The festivities (see sidebar at right) will include a convocation, a procession of Darden alumni from all 50 classes, and the debut of a newly published pictorial history of the school.
An anniversary speaker series also has been planned. Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and, until earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency chief under President George W. Bush, launched the series on Sept. 21 with her public lecture titled “A Time for Radical Moderates: Bringing American Politics Back to the Center.”
Fifty years ago, the mission of Darden was borne on a belief in the transformative power of capitalism to improve lives. Darden’s founders wanted to resurrect the ailing economy of the South, Virginia especially, by creating a world-class graduate business program. Today, that program educates business leaders the world over.
Although student enrollment, faculty and staff have expanded tenfold since fall 1955, the fundamental principles of instruction and theory on which Darden was founded have withstood half a century of profound change in both the global economy and the world of academia. Unwavering dedication to the case method, student collaboration in “learning teams” and an emphasis on communication and interpersonal skills still enable Darden to grow and flourish.
Planning for U.Va.’s graduate business program began in earnest in 1947 with the assistance of the U.Va. faculty and President Colgate W. Darden Jr., a former Virginia governor and congressman for whom the school would later be named. On April 9, 1954, the Board of Visitors adopted a resolution creating a Graduate School of Business Administration. The resolution designated Monroe Hall, opposite the West Range on U.Va.’s Central Grounds, as home of the new school. (Darden subsequently moved to the North Grounds in 1975.)
Charles C. Abbott was lured away from Harvard to serve as dean of the new business school. In 1955, the school opened its doors and, two years later, the first class of 28 students emerged with their MBAs.
Today, Darden has a first-year enrollment of 309 students, representing more than 40 countries, and more than 85 scholars distinguished by a wide range of business and academic experience. The core of the Darden MBA (as well as the school’s Executive Education programs) remains the case method of instruction in which faculty present major business challenges that are analyzed through lively exchange in class and informal discussion groups.
Over the years, the school’s commitment to developing leaders of integrity and high ethical standards has remained strong, according to emeritus professor and alumnus C. Ray Smith (MBA ’58), who entered the Darden program as a student in 1956, and then returned in 1961 to serve on its faculty.
“The business world was based on trust when I was in school,” he said. “It still is, to a large extent. Some of this was based on the limitations of technology. There was no time to wait on mail and you couldn’t send a fax. But the business world was also based on the idea that a person’s honor is a person’s honor.”
To that end, Smith said, Darden provides the tools. How students deploy those tools is up to them.
“Every student who comes here and finishes, knows the material,” he said. “The difference in success is their interpersonal skills.”
(Portions of this text were adapted from articles that originally appeared in the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 issues of Darden magazine.)
Darden Ranks High
- No. 8 in Forbes magazine ranking of Best Business Schools (2005)
- No. 14 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2006 MBA Ranking (2005)
- No. 15 for U.S. schools and No. 20 for global business schools in Financial Times (2005)
- No. 12 in Business Week’s biennial survey of the best business schools in America (2004)
- No. 12 in the world and No. 10 in the United States in Economist Intelligence Unit’s guide to the best MBA programs (2004)
- No. 12 in the Wall Street Journal’s survey of the best national business schools (2004)
9:30am • 50th Anniversary First Coffee, PepsiCo Forum
10:00am–3:30pm • Leadership Training Sessions, Abbott Center
4:15pm • Alumni Procession of Classes, Wilkinson Courtyard
5:00pm • Convocation, with keynote speech by George David (MBA ’67), chairman, president and CEO of United Technologies Corp., Flagler Courtyard
6:00–8:00pm • Reception, Flagler Courtyard
8:30am • Darden Cares 50th Anniversary 5K Run/Walk Race, The Park
10:30am • Back to the Classroom with Top Darden Faculty, Classroom Building
Noon • Tailgate Party sponsored by MassMutual Financial Group, Flagler Courtyard
12:30pm • Historical Video: “Darden at 50: The DVD,” Classroom 120
3:30pm • Virginia vs. Duke Football (ticket required), Scott Stadium
10:00am • Golf Tournament, Birdwood Golf Course
September 23 • George David, chairman, president and CEO, United Technologies Corp.
October 27 • Julie Lynne, Kelly Thomas, Producers, “Nine Lives”
November 3 • Terry McGraw, chairman, president and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Cos.
November 15 • Kevin Sharer, chairman, president and CEO, Amgen Inc.
For more information about Darden’s 50th anniversary or its speaker series, go to http://www.darden.virginia.edu/