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The Consortium, Born In A Turbulent Time, Marks 50 Years

Inaugural class member James Jackson with Professor Sterling Schoen. Courtesy photo

Inaugural class member James Jackson with Professor Sterling Schoen. Courtesy photo

‘ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL & ECONOMIC PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY’

“It’s amazing to me, sitting in the chair that I sit in, that we’re still here but not only that we’re still here surviving, but we’re thriving,” Aranda says. “The social landscape around the country, there was a lot of upheaval, there was a lot of protesting, there was a lot of civil rights activity going on, and much of it positive, but some of it not positive, some of it violent, and so it’s amazing to me the strength, the courage, the compassion that had to have existed at these schools and in the leadership ranks within these schools to actually make that commitment during that time.

Peter Aranda, executive director and CEO of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management

Peter Aranda, executive director and CEO of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management

“Washington University was an exclusive campus prior to that,” Aranda adds. “There were no black people. And so it was an incredible beginning, and even though we do great things today and we’re proud of our 490 students at 18 schools, I think what Sterling Schoen had to contend with in 1966 and 1967 was much, much harder. And so while the program may have been much smaller, the significance of what they started back then was profound. I feel very, very fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me — and to be able to continue that vision and be able to make it much, much bigger.”

Vernon Mason, who went straight to Indiana for an MBA after gaining his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College, agrees. “I thought for Dr. Schoen to start this initiative was one of the most insightful and foresightful things that could be possibly done. And a lot of us felt that way,” says Mason, who graduated from Indiana in 1969 before earning a law degree from Columbia in 1972. He practiced law until 1995, when he became a minister. He will celebrate his 70th birthday in October. “Going back to that period, this was for the country probably one of the most turbulent decades in the 20th century. It was just turbulent. And in the midst of all of this, Dr. Schoen’s vision of what could be done in the business world in terms of what business schools could do, what corporations could do, and what society needed, that was just an incredible vision.

“All of this (upheaval) was happening, but then you had this visionary program that I’m certain when Dr. Schoen envisioned it, he would not have foreseen that that program, one, would last 50 years, and two, that it would be one of the most important social and economic programs in the country.”

FROM 60-70 STUDENTS TO NEARLY 500

Though the 13 members of the original Consortium cohort failed to produce a CEO of a major company, many went on to varied experiences in corporate America and the military. Several had successful careers with PepsiCo, IBM, and other large corporations.

Fred Harris, who received his MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1971, was a Consortium member when its class sizes were in the double digits. So he was a bit taken aback this spring when he was invited by his former employer, 3M, to attend a 50th anniversary celebration of the Consortium in St. Louis, only to discover how many students will be part of the incoming 2016-2017 class.

“Each year the Consortium has their orientation program, and there were almost 500 students there this year,” Harris says. “That just blew me away, because when I entered the program — it was a long time ago, 47 years ago when I was at orientation — there were 60 or 70 students. There were five universities participating at that time, now there are 18.

“I didn’t know that till I got there, so that just kind of blew me away. It’s real gratifying to see that the program has sustained itself so long.”