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Service, leadership, scholarship: Celebrating two extraordinary careers

Richard L. Schmalensee

Glen L. Urban and Richard L. Schmalensee—back-to-back MIT Sloan deans who grew the School’s faculty and staff and built the iconic E62 building—have retired.

Urban, a marketing professor, will continue large-scale research by helming a project with General Motors to quantify the value of new media advertising and a project with Suruga Bank on the effectiveness of apps in building trust and generating consideration. In addition, Urban and his wife, Andrea, gave a $1 million gift to MIT Sloan this past summer to establish a PhD fellowship at the School. Schmalensee will continue his research in energy and environmental economics, as well as teaching the required social science course in MIT’s Energy Studies minor for undergraduates.

MIT Sloan’s sixth and seventh deans, respectively, Urban and Schmalensee led the School from 1993 to 2007—a period of unprecedented growth—making MIT Sloan one of the world’s top management schools.

Glen L. Urban

During Urban’s tenure as dean from 1993 to 1998, MIT Sloan grew the faculty, scaled up the School’s MBA program, established partnerships with Tsinghua University and Fudan University in China, and fostered the culture of entrepreneurship the School is heralded for today. Schmalensee continued that growth as dean from 1998 to 2007, restructured the School’s financial relationship with the Institute, and launched the School’s non-degree Executive Education programs.

In addition to the innovations in curriculum and programming that both men brought to MIT Sloan, they took on the task of bringing MIT Sloan’s facilities up to par. “It was clear to both of us that space was our main problem,” Schmalensee said. He recalled an accreditation review from the mid-1990s, after which a member of the accrediting committee remarked that, “You’ve really got everything you need here—except for the facilities.”

As dean, Urban worked with several architectural firms nationwide to explore concepts for a new building. When Schmalensee became dean, he persuaded MIT’s central administration to sign off on the site and specifications for the new building, and also led planning and the $100 million fundraising campaign for the new building. An initial $25 million gift from E*Trade founder William A. Porter, SF ’67, and his wife, Joan, began the fundraising campaign with a bang and ultimately led to the construction of the building. Today, E62, featuring the Porter Center for Management Education, represents the physical and intellectual center of MIT Sloan.

“Seeing E62 finished wasn’t nearly as exciting as seeing it full of students,” Schmalensee said. “I remember running into a colleague soon after the building opened. We stopped and looked around at the students and faculty hard at work and I thought, ‘This is it. This is what we worked for.’”

Urban joined the MIT Sloan faculty in 1966. He was the David Austin Professor of Marketing for 46 years and the chairman of the MIT Center for Digital Business since its founding in 1999.

One of his greatest achievements—a game changer in the world of marketing science—was his invention, in 1978, of ASSESSOR, a predictive model for pre-market testing of packaged goods. He also founded a number of successful marketing and management science companies.

Urban is known for his thoughtful mentoring of doctoral students and his commitment to educating the next generation of business leaders. It is fitting, then, that the $1 million gift will establish the Glen L. and Andrea W. Urban Unitrust to support a PhD fellowship in marketing.

“MIT has been good to me,” Urban said. “Where else can you go where you can do whatever you want, in whatever way you want, with the support and intellectual resources that you need? We were able to convert some of that into economic gains. And we’d like to give some of that back to perpetuate the structure I benefited from.”

Schmalensee served as dean from 1998 to 2007. He came to MIT in 1961 as a college freshman and went on to earn a PhD in economics, also at MIT. After returning to MIT Sloan in 1977, he held various titles, most recently the Howard W. Johnson Professorship of Economics and Management from 2007 until this year. He served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 through 1991, where he helped design the groundbreaking emissions trading program to control acid rain.

Over the course of his career, Schmalensee has written influential papers on the economics of advertising, credit cards, and new entry, as well as a range of other topics. He has long been connected to the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), acting as the center’s director from 1991 to 1999, and again beginning in 2008. He is currently co-director of CEEPR and will step down from that position next summer.

One of Schmalensee’s best-known CEEPR projects focused on the performance and regulation of the electric utility industry. He collaborated on it with Paul L. Joskow, a former director of CEEPR and the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics, Emeritus, at MIT. The pair published their findings in a 1983 book, Markets for Power: An Analysis of Electric Utility Deregulation, which influenced a decade of debate about regulatory reform and the role of competition in the sector.

Schmalensee’s most recent work has explored the nature and function of platform markets, the future of the electric grid, and the development and impact of renewable energy.

“My time at MIT Sloan has been a real treat,” Schmalensee said. “And I don’t expect it to stop. The dishes on the menu may change, but the meal will continue to be interesting and impressive.”