Former Harvard Business School Dean Dies at 81

Former HBS Dean Jay Light

Former Harvard Business School Dean Dies at 81

Jay O. Light, who served as Dean of Harvard Business School (HBS) from 2005 to 2010, died on Saturday, October 15, at his home in South Dartmouth, MA of cancer. Light was 81 years old.

“Jay was, in so many ways, ahead of his time,” Srikant Datar, Dean of Harvard Business School, says in a press release. “He saw clearly the ways business would need to play a role in solving society’s most pressing challenges, and laid the foundation for work we are carrying forward today. His impact on the School is immeasurable and his legacy will be long-lasting.”


Jay O. Light, Harvard Business School Dean from 2005-2010

Light served on the HBS faculty for more than four decades. As dean from 2005-2010, he led HBS through the 2008 global economic crisis by mobilizing a group of HBS faculty experts in finance and economics to conduct research on the causes of the crisis and produce seminars providing a deep understanding of risk management, financial regulation, and changes in the capital markets.

“Jay came at the recession like the expert he was,” Angela Crispi, executive dean for administration during Light’s tenure, says. “He moved quickly to manage expenses, while continuing to invest in the people and activities that are core to our mission. He was a remarkable leader during a very difficult time.”

“Jay gave me the best gift a new Dean could ask for: a School well-positioned for the future,” Nitin Nohria, University Distinguished Service Professor who served as Dean following Light, says. “Moreover, he was a trusted advisor and sounding board. His dedication to the School ran deep and, in everything he did, he was a true servant leader.”


As a leader, Light was known to be a dedicated mentor to junior colleagues, as well as many of HBS’ senior faculty.

“Above all, Jay taught me what it means to truly love what you do for a living: to love teaching, to love one’s students, to love research, to love one’s colleagues, to love HBS,” Josh Coval, Jay O. Light Professor of Business Administration, says. “Through his example, I learned love of family, of friends, and of life. I know HBS is a very different place today because of because of Jay’s deep love of the institution and all of us within it.”

Light is survived by his wife, Judy; his daughter, Anne, her husband, Jason, and their daughter, Olivia, of California; his son, James, of Colorado; and his sister, Joan, of Michigan.

“Light understood that HBS and Harvard were bigger than any of us, and that making them better was important work—but that to do it, one had to see them clearly,” Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard who appointed Light as Dean, says. “He loved HBS and saw it so clearly. That is why he made it so much better as Dean.”

Sources: Harvard Business School, Harvard Business School

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