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In memoriam: Professor Emeritus Lawrence Lavengood

Beloved Northwestern University and Kellogg School of Management professor and scholar of business history and ethics Lawrence G. Lavengood died July 13.

By Matt Golosinski

7/13/2006 - Professor Emeritus of Business History, Lawrence “Gene” Lavengood enjoyed a long tenure at Northwestern and the Kellogg School, arriving in 1953 and actively teaching at the school until his retirement in 1994. Even then, he remained involved at Kellogg and Northwestern, residing in Evanston and occasionally teaching special seminars and at alumni events. Professor Lavengood was 82.

He began his Northwestern career at the then School of Commerce, which later became the Kellogg School. He started teaching during a time when executive education was developing and the university was cultivating closer relationships with business practitioners. Professor Lavengood's classes would help students — and sometimes as many as 150 enrolled at a time, filling an auditorium in Memorial Hall — appreciate the rich historical context of U.S. business.

“I regarded the classroom as a kind of theater, and the students, not as the audience but, along with me, the players … giving shape and substance to our discussions,” said Lavengood in 2005.

Drawing on his training as a doctoral student in history at the University of Chicago, Lavengood's course presented an overview of American history from colonial times forward, but with a focus on economics and business. “You can't teach those without exploring a good deal of political and social history as well,” recalled Lavengood. “It was a richly textured course.” Professor Lavengood also taught history at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, prior to coming to Northwestern.

While at Kellogg, Lavengood also taught classes on management's social and ethical dimensions, bringing history and the humanities to bear on business, and anticipating trends that would gain currency in management education decades later.

Even recently, Lavengood continued to demonstrate the ranging intellect and wit that informed his teaching, underscoring why the Kellogg School's highest teaching award for the “Professor of the Year” is named in his honor.

Kellogg colleagues remember Professor Lavengood both for his scholarship and amicability.

"Gene was a man of tremendous talents, beloved for his gifts as a teacher and a scholar, as well as for his graciousness and great humor. He was simply a joy to be around and a great friend. His influence on me is nearly indescribable, as it was for so many other Kellogg faculty," said current Kellogg Dean Dipak Jain.

“In addition to being a warm, gracious individual with unusually broad intellectual interests, Gene was a gifted teacher and motivator, admired for his witty observations which made his talks informative and also fun,” said longtime colleague Professor Lawrence Revsine.

Kellogg Dean Emeritus Donald P. Jacobs, whose tenure at Northwestern largely overlapped with Lavengood's, recalled his colleague as a person who could always be counted on to make contributions.

“Gene was an extraordinarily accomplished teacher who demonstrated a natural ability. Listening to Gene talk was a real treat,” said Dean Jacobs, who also noted the leadership role that Lavengood played in advancing race relations at Northwestern and in the Evanston community in the early 1960s. “He was part of the drive in Evanston to integrate the community,” recalled Jacobs.

Among other efforts, Lavengood contributed to the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) initiative at Kellogg, an outreach program that encourages minority high school students to pursue business careers.

Professor Lavengood is survived by his four children, Abigail, Rachel, Tim and Jessica. His wife, Gloria, died in 1991. A memorial service was held July 22 at 1:30 p.m. in Alice Millar Chapel located at 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Ill. Services were open to the Northwestern University community.