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Management & Organizations Professor J. Keith Murnighan received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in March from the International Association for Conflict Management.

J. Keith Murnughan

Grand influence

Kellogg professor honored with lifetime achievement award

By Heather Blaha

4/6/2015 - Unbeknownst to Kellogg professor J. Keith Murnighan, 11 of his former doctoral students joined forces to praise not only his work, but also the ways his mentorship had profoundly influenced them.

They were heard in March when the International Association for Conflict Management (IACM) awarded Murnighan its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. Kellogg’s Harold H. Hines Jr. Distinguished Professor of Risk Management, Murnighan says he was both unaware of his student-led nomination and surprised by the announcement.

The former student who organized the nomination was Cynthia Wang, an associate professor at the Spear School of Business at Oklahoma State University. As a research pioneer and mentor, “Keith embraces the mission of the lifetime achievement award with his immeasurable ability to span disciplinary boundaries in his work,” she wrote in the group’s nomination letter.

Murnighan’s career contributions as a scholar and teacher of negotiation and conflict management have had lasting impact. The discipline of organizational behavior and its applications – and subsequent enhanced standing and respect in business schools – thrives today, says Wang, thanks to Murnighan’s early and ongoing research that focuses on the intersection of psychology and economics. “Not only does Keith deserve this lifetime achievement award because of his pioneering work, but he deserves it because he is able to propagate knowledge through his commitment to his students,” she wrote on behalf of the nominating students.

A standout among scholars

Anne Lytle ’94, IACM 2015 President, agrees. “Keith Murnighan is a standout even among top scholars," she says. "Not only has he been a prolific researcher and writer, publishing seven books and over 130 academic articles, but has done so in a variety of disciplines and across a wealth of topics, demonstrating incredible flexibility in his intellectual accomplishments. Keith’s research has been some of the most creative and widely read in our field.”

However, Murnighan says he is most proud of the “grand total of grand people” that he has advised and influenced: He has chaired 18 dissertations, directed two postdocs, served as the “informal” advisor for three other PhDs and has served on 35 additional dissertation committees. Working alongside two instrumental colleagues during his first job as an assistant professor, Murnighan attributes his career success not only to hard work, but also to the “environmental influences” of being in the right place at the right time – with the right people.

Inspiring young scholars

With additional nominating support from Jeanne Brett, the DeWitt W. Buchanan, Jr., Professor of Dispute Resolution and Organizations and Max Bazerman, Harvard Professor of Business Administration, the enthusiasm behind Murnighan’s award is widespread. Many of his former students and current colleagues will join him at the IACM annual meeting and award ceremony this June in Clearwater Beach, Florida. As the keynote speaker, Murnighan plans to trace the roots of his career as a means of inspiring young scholars.

He is also asking former students to submit questions that they would like him to address during his presentation. “Some of these will be great fun,” he says.

Despite the award's “lifetime” moniker, Murnighan hopes to remain an active researcher and teacher for many years to come. “Getting a lifetime achievement award is actually pretty scary,” he adds. “As I tell my classes sometimes, this is my 41st year as a faculty member – which means that my career is only about half over.”