Abstract: The Institutional Origins of Executive Education at the Harvard, Stanford, and University of Chicago Schools of Business from 1940 to 1955

Kenneth C. Kimura


The U.S. government's role in university research during World War II is well documented. What is less well known is how the state supported breakthroughs in university instruction. Though the government's intervention was temporary, it had far-reaching implications for who business schools teach and how they offer instruction. This paper explores why and how three schools reacted to World War II in unexpected ways by creating two forms of executive education that still thrive today. Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago developed twelve-week, full-time, Advanced Management Programs (AMPs), while the University of Chicago also established a two-year, part-time, Executive MBA Program (EMBA). My paper tracks the first AMPs and the first EMBA from 1940 to 1955. The analysis makes four important findings. First, the state challenged these schools to balance the nation's need for vocational training in war production with their traditional curricula. Next, the military draft of college-age men motivated faculties to design adult education for executives above the draft age. Third, the schools learned to partner with corporations that sponsored executive students. Finally, as the wartime emergency shifted to a postwar era, the government's intervention gave way to a nascent market for executive education.