James Howell, Theodore J. Kreps Professor of Economics, Emeritus, passed away on Friday, March 29 in Palo Alto at 91 years of age. Jim was the longest-serving member of the GSB faculty, joining the school as an Assistant Professor in 1958, and last fall celebrating 60 years at Stanford. He was one the faculty members most responsible for the GSB’s rise to national prominence, and helped develop the foundation for modern management education across the United States.
Jim completed his PhD in Economics at Yale in 1955, and the next year began work with Robert Gordon of Berkeley on a project sponsored by the Ford Foundation to assess and improve business school education. At the time, academic standards in business schools were low. The Gordon-Howell report, published in 1959, set out a vision to transform management education with greater emphasis on fundamental knowledge, and faculty pursuing a blend of research and teaching.
Jim brought these ideas to Stanford, and worked with Dean Ernie Arbuckle, Provost Fred Terman, President Wallace Sterling, Professor Lee Bach, and others, to build the GSB faculty, deepen its research, and strengthen the MBA program. Within a decade, the GSB had risen in national and international recognition, and the Gordon-Howell model had spread to business schools across the country.
Jim continued his research, teaching and administrative service, publishing books on decision analysis, and running the Stanford Executive Program. In 1996, he was the first GSB faculty member to receive the Robert T. Davis Faculty Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Jim is survived by his wife of 53 years, Penny, their daughter Caitlyn Howell, and her two children, Collyn Waite and Calliope Waite. He is also survived, from a previous marriage, by two sons, Kenneth and William, a daughter, Jan Langmuir, and five grandchildren. Plans for a remembrance service are not determined at this time.
Jim will be deeply missed by his colleagues, and by the school, even as we continue to benefit from his contributions to the GSB.