Jack Wentworth has been described as a teacher who could make students prosper. One former student even said of the former Indiana University Kelley School of Business dean that he “greatly influenced our ability to grow and develop our entrepreneurial tendencies” — that his guidance helped students “prosper in a community and career field that supports the use of our many talents and interests.” Wentworth died Monday (September 11) in Indianapolis at 89.
Wentworth’s skills did not atrophy in uninteresting times. Not only was he dean during a pivotal time (1984 to 1993) in Indiana Kelley’s history, he also was a key player in the formation of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an academic and business network that helps African Americans, Latinos, and others acquire the skills they needed to find a foothold in corporate America. The Consortium marked its 50th anniversary in 2016.
Through the work of Wentworth and a few other leaders, Indiana Kelley became one of three founding schools of The Consortium, which now has 18 member schools and about 500 yearly students and has helped thousands of students from underrepresented populations earn an MBA and find and hold executive positions. The organization grows every year — but its strength and durability weren’t assured when it was born, in the turbulent 1960s.
“The country was going through the same kind of thing that we were going through,” Wentworth said last year in an article marking The Consortium’s 50th year. “We just happened to be a school that recognized this is something we needed to do. It was something that I think took a lot of guts to do, particularly at our level. We did it and it worked, and other schools could see that it worked and they gave us credit for it.”
‘WE DIDN’T NEED THE STUDENTS. WE JUST WANTED TO INTEGRATE THE PROGRAM’
Born in Elgin, Illinois in 1928, Wentworth spent nearly 50 years at Indiana, beginning as a student in 1946, before the school even bore that name. He earned three degrees, all at the school: a bachelor’s in business in 1950, an MBA in 1954, and a doctorate in business 1959. That year he joined the B-school’s staff as an assistant professor.
In a few short years he would leave his first major mark on the IU community.He was a big promoter of The Consortium and a major reason it thrived at Indiana. Born in the civil rights era, like all advances it needed careful nurturing, and at Indiana Wentworth provided it. He directed The Consortium from 1968 to 1978 and chaired it for two years, and he continually raised money from U.S. companies to support talented minority students pursuing graduate studies in business. IU’s legacy in the program is the more than 8,000 men and women of color who have earned a graduate business degree at the school since 1966.
“It was an opportunity for us,” Wentworth said last year. “We didn’t need students; we didn’t do it for that reason. We just wanted to integrate our program.”
AN IMPACT TOO BIG TO MEASURE
A marketing professor, Wentworth directed the B-school’s Division of Research (a precursor to Kelley’s Indiana Business Research Center) from 1961 to 1971 and the MBA program from 1971 to 1976. He became dean in March 1984. During his nine years at the helm, Indiana’s undergraduate business and MBA programs rose to greater national prominence, and private support for the school grew nearly fivefold. Membership in its alumni association nearly doubled, and a foundation was laid for the school’s extensive international involvement today.
Many of the initiatives from Wentworth’s term are still in place today, said Idalene “Idie” Kesner, current dean of the Kelley School, including the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Real Estate Studies. He also created a separate office for the dean and new associate deanships. His impact continues, and will continue, to be felt in many ways, Kesner said in a statement released by the school.
“Jack introduced pivotal changes to the Kelley School, allowing our organization to achieve recognition as a leading business school in the U.S.,” Kesner said. “He will be deeply missed by the faculty and staff of the Kelley School and by members of the IU community overall. His gentle demeanor and thoughtful leadership left its mark on the culture of our school, and we will forever be grateful.”