Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2000Kellogg School of Management
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A golden opportunity
Kellogg's executive education programs celebrate a half-century of lifelong learning

by Rebecca Lindell

  Executives attend the dedication of the James L. Allen Center in 1979
Executives attend the dedication of the James L. Allen Center in 1979

Fifty years ago, there was no James L. Allen Center. There weren't even any executive education programs. For that matter, Kellogg wasn't even Kellogg, and the school's rise to global prominence still lay in the distant future.

But there was an idea -- that mid-career executives had much to gain by returning to school for a short, concentrated period of time. Here's a look back at the beginnings of Kellogg's world-renowned executive education program -- and a chance to meet some alumni whose brief time at Kellogg has left a powerful impact on their lives.

An idea whose time had come

As early as 1929, Northwestern professors had entertained the notion of bringing executives back to school for a "booster shot" of education, although the Depression quickly quashed that idea. The concept resurfaced in 1951, when it became apparent that World War II had crimped the number of executives qualified to manage large organizations.

Thus began the Institute for Management, a four-week immersion course in business theory and practice. Participants lived with faculty in Abbott Hall on the Chicago campus and attended classes downtown. One of those faculty members was Don Jacobs, who says teaching in the program formed a turning point in his career.

"I learned an enormous amount from the executives," he says. "I'd lecture to them about theory, and they'd lecture to me about the real world of business."

Jacobs soon avidly supported the program, which expanded in 1965 with the creation of the International Institute for Management. The three-week residential program at Burgenstock spa near Lucerne, Switzerland, attracted about 30 international business people each year.

The opening of the Allen Center in 1979 heralded a new era for executive education at Kellogg. The facility was the world's first on-campus conference center designed exclusively for exec ed.

For Jacobs, it was an idea whose time had come. "We believed we were living in a rapidly changing world, and the notion that your education ended when you were 22 no longer made sense," he says. "Education should be lifelong, to help you keep pace with all the changes."

That applied to faculty too. Keeping professors in contact with the business world ensured that their teaching and research remained relevant, a dynamic that also benefitted students in other Kellogg programs.

By the 1990s, Kellogg's executive programs had achieved international renown. The center offered dozens of programs to the public and was designing programs for corporate clients. By 1999, Kellogg featured 134 executive programs a year, including courses on cutting-edge topics such as e-commerce. Numerous business publications had ranked the school's executive education curriculum No. 1 in the nation. Education for executives, once viewed as a novelty, is now regarded as essential to an organization's success.

"When we started, we didn't think about being in the vanguard. It was who we were," Jacobs remembers. "It wasn't until later that we recognized we were the precursor to a new way of thinking about education."

DON WHYTE Institute for Management, 1957

Attending the Institute for Management in 1957 was a bracing experience for Don Whyte, who was working in research for S.C. Johnson. "They used to wake us up in the morning with the garbage cans banging," he says with a laugh.

Once awake, Whyte and his classmates headed to class for a day of lectures and discussions. The evenings, spent studying and preparing for the next day's lessons, didn't offer much of a break from the academic grind. "It was rigorous, which was good," Whyte says. "It was what we were there for."

The focus then was on "general management, accounting, evaluating what your company ought to do -- normal b-school things," Whyte recalls. "They taught us to be pretty frank, which I found useful, particularly in dealing with people overseas."

That experience proved instrumental later in Whyte's career, when he served as head of research and development for Johnson. The job required him to spend nearly three months of the year traveling to the company's 40 labs and 42 subsidiaries.

In fact, had his employer not enabled him to attend the Institute for Management, Whyte might never have had that career opportunity. "At that point I was seriously considering leaving Johnson, but that was one of the things that kept me there," he recalls.

Now, 43 years later, Whyte still gives a thumbs-up to executive education at Kellogg. "It gives you a sense of confidence. It's a challenge, and a very good broadening experience."

ROLF-DIETER LEISTER International Institute for Management, 1978

For Rolf-Dieter Leister, the end of his three weeks at the International Institute for Management in Burgenstock in 1978 was really a beginning.

Executives from around the world now study in Kellogg's programs.  
Executives from around the world now study in Kellogg's programs.  

In over two decades since attending the program, Leister's relationship with Kellogg has blossomed into an integral part of his career. He has attended nearly all the European exec ed reunions, visited Kellogg's Evanston campus numerous times and consulted Jacobs and faculty on pressing business issues.

Most career development programs don't necessarily reverberate throughout one's career, Leister notes. The Kellogg experience was different.

"This one has been kept alive the entire timeŠthrough [its] quality and [especially] through Don Jacob's personality," says Leister, a consultant with extensive experience in the European technology industry.

Leister is a former chairman of Deutsch Telecom and director of IBM-Germany who has served on numerous boards. Through it all, he has stayed in close contact with the Kellogg community, which has provided resources and fellowship at every turn.

"This is a family," he says of the school.

MATTHEW RUTHERFORD Advanced Executive Program, 1989

By 1989, Matt Rutherford had spent 15 years at International Paper Co. He was ready for something new. Not necessarily a new employer, or even a new job within his company, but new horizons.

With the support of his company, Rutherford, then IP's general sales and marketing manager, enrolled in the Advanced Executive Program. The experience was all had hoped for, and more.

"It was a very welcome break from routine, and a way to recharge my intellectual batteries and push me into new areas," Rutherford says.

About half Rutherford's fellow students hailed from outside the U.S. The contact with so many international business people left an indelible impact on him. "It was really the first time I was able to participate in a lot of discussions about global business, and talk through some of those differences," he recalls.

That context proved useful when Rutherford returned to IP and was appointed to a group assigned to restructure his company's global business plan. "Much of what I learned at Kellogg pervaded my [thinking about] what we should be doing," he says. Afterward, he became general manager of the company's Canadian, Latin American and European operations. "I moved from a domestic track to a more international track -- a big change for somebody who hadn't had a focus on international business," he says.

SHIRLEY PYATT Executive Development Program, 1999

Shirley Pyatt's three weeks at the Allen Center in July 1999 were an opportunity to step back and do some "big picture" thinking about leadership -- especially in the area of organizational behavior.

"One thing I enjoyed very much was the teaching on emotional intelligence," says Pyatt, an assistant vice president at the Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. "At an executive level, I think it's very important to understand people's behavior and the things that influence them, and why they are reacting in certain ways. I enjoy that subject very much because that's where leadership skills emerge."

Pyatt also relished the personal interactions within the program, particularly those with students from overseas. It was the first opportunity she had ever had, she notes, to work with people from a number of nations. "Working with the Federal Reserve, it was interesting to hear about the differences in the economics in the different countries represented," she says.

Pyatt recently received the Allen Center's schedule of classes for 2001. "There are so many good classes," she notes. "It's so positive if you can continue building your knowledge base. I hope to attend Kellogg in the near future to further continue my education."

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University