Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2002Kellogg School of Management
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  Harry Dreiser in 1975
Harry Dreiser in 1975

In memoriam
“Risk taker” Harry Dreiser, 90, helped build Kellogg School brand with PR savvy

By Matt Golosinski

For 70 years, Harry Dreiser immersed himself in editing and writing news. To the Kellogg School community, however, he is perhaps best known for making headlines that put Northwestern University’s business school into rarified air as a leading brand in management education.

Through his efforts as public relations officer in 1979, Mr. Dreiser proved instrumental in helping Northwestern obtain a $10 million gift from the John L. and Helen Kellogg Foundation for its business school. The grant was then one of the largest ever of its kind, and it led to the school being renamed the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Mr. Dreiser died Dec. 11 at the Birches Retirement Home in Clarendon Hills, Ill.

Described by his former boss Pete Henderson as “the best business school PR guy in the country,” Mr. Dreiser came to Northwestern from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business where he had served as head of public relations.

“Harry was a risk taker and a delight to be with,” said Henderson, Kellogg’s associate dean for administrative affairs from 1971 to 1981. “No one was more responsible than Harry for Kellogg’s rise in the rankings. He brought access to and the interest of major business press to the school.”

Long before he came to Northwestern in 1976, Mr. Dreiser earned a reputation as a maverick with an insatiable curiosity. In his unpublished memoirs, Coping: A Twentieth Century Odyssey, Mr. Dreiser describes himself “gaping in awe at the occasional airplane [flying] overhead” during his childhood, and he recalled living through a time that spanned the invention of automobiles and the rise of space exploration. After high school he worked on the Belleville Daily News-Democrat, then rode the rails west as a hobo. He worked as a ranch hand in Arizona before hitchhiking to Los Angeles. He returned to Illinois in 1933 to marry his high school sweetheart, Lillian Hauser. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and later worked as a copy editor at the Chicago Sun, the Sun-Times and the Chicago American. He went on to edit trade publications for Cahner’s before venturing into academic public relations. He retired from Kellogg in 1994.

Colleagues say that Mr. Dreiser brought humor and intelligence to his various roles, and that he could skillfully translate technical subjects into language comprehensible to the layperson.

“Harry may not have been huge in physical stature, but he was a giant in making his presence felt,” said Kellogg’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs Ed Wilson. “His insights were profound. What I most admired was his wit and wisdom.”

Kellogg’s Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs also recalls Mr. Dreiser fondly.

“Harry was an extraordinary human being, and what most of us think of when picturing a great newspaper reporter,” said Jacobs. “Harry had real style — the laconic voice, the cigarette dangling. When he came to Northwestern, we were PR amateurs. He was constantly teaching us, and we were good learners.”

Henderson recalls initially meeting with Mr. Dreiser. “We asked Harry who he thought was the second best PR talent after himself. He told us ‘How about me? I hear it’s exciting on the north side of town.’ He was 65 then and jumped ship to take on a new challenge,” said Henderson.

Kellogg colleagues say Mr. Dreiser brought public relations savvy and superb strategic sense to the business school, and that he immediately created a Kellogg mystique that the national business press found irresistible. Soon, well-placed articles about the school began appearing in the pages of The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune.

“Everybody truly loved Harry,” remembered Jacobs. “He retired three times but didn’t seem able to stay away. I would say ‘Don’t you want to come back?’ And he would.”

Mr. Dreiser is survived by his wife, Lillian; a daughter, Elizabeth Johnson; two sons, Daniel and Richard; three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University