Kenneth R. Andrews, HBS Professor and Father of Corporate Strategy, Dead at 89

Sep-12-2005 by

BOSTON, Sept. 7, 2005 -Kenneth R. Andrews, who began his academic career as an authority on Mark Twain and went on to become a renowned professor at Harvard Business School, a founder of the field of corporate strategy, editor of the Harvard Business Review, and a beloved “master” of Leverett House (one of Harvard University’s undergraduate residences), died on Sunday, Sept. 4, at his home in Durham, N.H., after a brief illness. He was 89 years old and had also resided in Cambridge, Mass.

A member of the Harvard Business School faculty for forty years, Andrews retired from the active faculty in 1986. At the time of his death, he was the School’s Donald Kirk David Professor of Business Administration Emeritus.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1936 and a master’s in American literature a year later, Kenneth Richmond Andrews was pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana) when his studies were interrupted by World War II. Drafted into the service, he found himself at the Army Air Force’s Statistical Control School, which was held on the HBS campus and taught by members of the School’s faculty. Andrews was impressed by the quality of the teaching; his instructors were equally impressed by the quality of his intellect.

With the end of the war, Andrews, who had risen in rank from private to major, returned to the University of Illinois in 1946 to complete his dissertation on Twain. Within a few months, however, he received a call from HBS professor Edmund Learned, offering the opportunity to join a multidisciplinary teaching group being formed at the School to teach a new course in organizational behavior called Administrative Practices.

What clinched the deal in HBS’s favor was the opportunity for Andrews to also continue his research at Harvard’s Widener Library, which housed Twain’s private papers, and to complete his dissertation (which was published to critical acclaim in 1950 as Nook Farm: Mark Twain’s Hartford Circle).

Remaining at HBS after receiving his doctorate in 1948, Andrews not only taught MBA students and wrote case studies, but he undertook an exhaustive survey of the effectiveness of university and corporate executive training programs. But around the same time, another opportunity came his way that proved to be an inflection point in his career. He was asked to join a small group of other faculty reviewing the School’s required course in Business Policy, in which MBA students examined the problems of an entire company from the perspective of top management. Professorial input, however, was limited mainly to the personal perspectives of the senior faculty members who taught the course.

After more than two years, this group developed the concept of corporate strategy as the organizing principle of the course. Andrews put his mark on the project with an important series of case studies on the Swiss watch industry. As a result of these efforts, the Business Policy course underwent a complete revision and influenced the work of other professors’ course development as well in areas such as competitiveness and country and industry analysis. In addition to its impact on the HBS curriculum, this groundbreaking work also contributed to the rise of corporate strategy as a specialty in the management consulting industry.

During his career, Andrews held many leadership positions that were important in the life of both Harvard Business School and Harvard University. Besides heading the Business Policy course and chairing the General Management unit, he served as chairman of the School’s Advanced Management Program for senior executives from 1967 to 1970. While in this position, he submitted an influential report laying out objectives that guided the School’s expansion of its Executive Education portfolio from two programs to twelve during the 1970s.

“Ken Andrews’s contributions to Harvard Business School were enormous,” said HBS professor and strategy expert Joseph L. Bower. “With Professor C. Roland Christensen and others, Ken Andrews built the field of business policy, which laid the foundation for what we now think of as the field of strategy. He also dramatically improved the professionalism of our Advanced Management Program and transformed Harvard Business Review into a leading journal of business ideas. For me personally, he was a very wise and caring mentor, and I felt particularly honored to succeed him in the chair named after former Dean Donald David.”

In 1971, in the midst of considerable student unrest at Harvard and other universities, Harvard President Nathan Marsh Pusey appointed Andrews the master – or head – of Leverett House. During his tenure the Houses became coeducational and it was an assignment that Andrews, with his wife Carolyn as the Leverett House’s first Co-Master, completed with great success over the next decade, creating a sense of community in a large, ethnically diverse group of undergraduates.

Following his move into Leverett House, Andrews began his ten-year association with the Harvard Business Review, first as chairman of its editorial board and then as editor from 1979 to 1985. During this period, Andrews became increasingly interested in the study of ethics and personal values in business. Andrews encouraged business people to write on the topic for HBR as part of his devotion to executive education. As a result, he edited and penned the introduction for Ethics in Practice, a collection of articles published in HBR addressed over a considerable period of time to corporate ethics as a management problem published by Harvard Business School Press in 1989. Under his leadership, the magazine’s reputation and influence grew considerably, and by the time he stepped down, HBR’s worldwide circulation had grown to 240,000, with eleven foreign editions.

Throughout his career, Andrews was also active as a consultant, director, and trustee, working with a number of organizations, including the Harvard University Press; Wesleyan University; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; and Xerox Corporation.

He was the author of numerous articles on executive education, management development, corporate strategy, and corporate governance. In addition to his work on Twain, his books include The Effectiveness of University Management Development Programs (1966), which won the Society for Advancement of Management Book Award; Business Policy: Text and Cases (1965 and many other editions), and The Concept of Corporate Strategy (1971 and 1980), which won the McKinsey Foundation Book Award.

Andrews received an honorary master’s degree from Harvard University in 1957. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from Harvard Business School in 1990; the citation read: “He understands, as Mark Twain never did, how business works best; his writings elucidate the complex subject to the benefit of his Harvard colleagues and of managers everywhere.”

A voracious reader until his death and a New York Times crossword puzzle enthusiast, Andrews also found solace in the outdoors and developed a passion for gardening and boating.

He was married to Edith Platt from 1945 to 1969. She died in 2002. His marriage to Carolyn Erskine Hall lasted from 1970 until her death, also in 2002.

He is survived by a son, Ken Jr., of Marlborough, Mass.; a daughter, Carolyn, of Maynard, Mass.; three stepchildren, Lyn Hejinian of Berkeley, Cal., Douglas Hall of San Francisco, and Marie Katrak, of Durham, N.H.; six grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Services will be private.

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