Ford Bolsters Business Education

  • Education
  • 1954

In mid-twentieth-century America, business was already a popular college major, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Even with one out of seven students on campus specializing in some form of business education, however, the quality and rigor of these programs was often low. To upgrade the discipline, the Ford Foundation committed $35 million over a 12-year period to support research, fellowships, conferences, and faculty training. The foundation’s grantmaking was driven by three objectives: to place business education on firmer academic footing, to bring it into line with the needs of the American economy, and to increase its efficiency. Ford was particularly effective in fostering high-quality business-administration programs at elite colleges, infusing them with perspectives from economics, statistics, and political science. These programs were then emulated elsewhere. A signal accomplishment of the initiative was the Gordon-Howell report, which was influential in pushing business schools to raise standards of admission and develop rigorous, interdisciplinary curricula. By reinforcing the training offered to men and women managing productive entities, these investments fattened the output of the American economy.