When Robert James and his family visited the MIT campus in April 2015, there was a there was a sense of coming home, and of coming full circle. James had served as a Course 15 assistant professor in Finance in the late 1940s and early 1950s, during the time of the founding of the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management.
As part of a small team tasked with assessing the validity of a management school at MIT, James had a large impact. One of the few faculty members in the group with an MBA, James provided valuable insight into what a management school could add to MIT, and he was a vocal advocate for what this school could do for MIT students. “Our engineers, while brilliant, didn’t know how to use numbers in business,” says James. “To me, that was an important skill for them to be missing.”
After four significant years at the Institute, James moved on to use his leadership skills to build a successful business career in the oil business before co-founding Enterprise Asset Management, Inc., a highly successful real estate investment firm. But after six decades, MIT was about to become as big a part of his future as it was his past. James’ daughter, Cathy, and her husband, Lou Paglia, (who received his degree in Engineering from MIT in 1979), encouraged James to go and see what had become of that management school of which he’d been such a huge proponent.
During his MIT Sloan tour in 2015, James was stunned by the enormity of what had been accomplished, not just with the buildings, but by the people who taught and learned there.
As a result of this visit, James and his family were inspired to endow, through the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, an MIT Sloan Career Development Professorship, which will support young faculty. For James, the decision to donate to the School made perfect sense. “By supporting this professorship, I am not only giving back to the place that gave me my start, but, hopefully also giving other young professors the chance to develop their skills and reach their highest potential.”