Harvard Business School Dean Jay Light to Step Down

Harvard Business School Guide

Yesterday Jay Light, who has served as Dean of Harvard Business School for the past five years, announced that he will retire next June. The announcement comes nearly 40 years to the day after Light first joined the HBS faculty.

Jay Light’s relationship with HBS goes back to 1966, when he was working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and decided to apply to the school. He was accepted, but ended up joining a new doctoral program between HBS and Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. His long and distinguished career at Harvard has included serving as Chairman of the school’s Finance department, Senior Associate Dean and Director of Faculty Planning, and Senior Associate Dean and Director of Planning and Development. Back in the 1970s, he took a two-year leave of absence to serve as the Director of Investment and Financial Policies for the Ford Foundation.

Harvard University President Drew Faust released an announcement yesterday on the HBS site:

I wanted to take this moment to express my own deep appreciation, and the University’s, for Jay’s extraordinary career of service to Harvard.

Jay has been an exemplary leader in a school dedicated to the understanding and practice of leadership. In his years as dean, and throughout his decades at Harvard, he has done a great deal to define the distinctive character of Harvard Business School and to guide its strategy and progress in everything from MBA education to innovative executive programs, from global engagement to initiatives focused on health care and science. He has brought to all he does a powerful devotion to the school he loves – and has inspired a similar devotion in others. He has also been a strong and influential voice within our deans’ council on matters of university-wide concern, and someone whose organizational and financial expertise has long benefited not just the Business School but the University more generally. He has been and will remain a valued colleague and friend, for me and for a great many of us across Harvard.

In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, when asked what decisions his successor, will have to make, Light answered:

I see three big areas. The first is the MBA program. How do we adapt the curriculum to ensure we’re preparing students to address the leadership challenges they’ll face in a rapidly changing, global world? How do we supplement what goes on inside the classroom, through small group or field-based experiences? The second is executive education. What kinds of programs should we be offering? Should we be doing less of some? Are there new opportunities in fields like health care and the management of science-based businesses? And the third would be in the School’s publishing division. Obviously, all publishing enterprises are having to rethink what they do and how they are structured as they move more and more of their content online. Harvard Business Publishing is no exception to that challenge, and the next few years will be critical.

In her announcement, President Faust indicated that the search for a new dean will begin right away, and that she’ll look far and wide to find his replacement. We expect that the school will make every effort to at least announce Light’s successor before he steps down in June.

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