Robert K. Jaedicke, Former Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business: 1929–2020

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Robert K. Jaedicke, Former Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Business: 1929–2020

A gifted manager of people and a visionary leader in management, Bob Jaedicke was loved by all who knew him.
June 22, 2020
Bob Jaedicke sitting at a desk. Credit: Courtesy of Stanford GSB
Loved by staff and faculty alike, Dean Jaedicke celebrated staff birthdays with a handwritten note. | Courtesy of Stanford GSB

Robert K. “Bob” Jaedicke, the Philip H. Knight Professor and dean, emeritus, of Stanford Graduate School of Business, passed away on May 24, 2020, at a hospice care facility near his home in Cody, Wyoming. He was 91.

“Bob was a giant in the history of the GSB,” current Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin wrote in a Memorial Day email to staff, faculty, and alumni. “He served on the faculty for more than 30 years, and in leadership positions for almost 20 years. He played a pivotal role in the lives of many, and in the words of one former colleague, personified the academic values that the GSB espouses.”

Jaedicke began his tenure at Stanford GSB in 1961 as an associate professor of accounting. Over the next three decades, he directed the school’s PhD program, served as associate dean for academic affairs from 1969 to 1979, followed by a year as acting dean, then as the sixth dean from 1983 until 1990. He retired in 1992.

An outstanding teacher, scholar, administrator, and fundraiser, “He checked an awful lot of boxes,” said Mark Wolfson, adjunct professor in accounting and finance.

Pushed Stanford GSB to Excellence

“Bob was largely instrumental in advancing the school academically,” said James VanHorne, the A.P. Giannini Professor of Banking and Finance, Emeritus, and a former associate dean alongside Jaedicke. “Bob pushed tirelessly to make the GSB the best business school in the country. I regard that as one of his greatest accomplishments.”

Under Jaedicke’s leadership, the school’s academic scope widened in three complementary directions to address the complexities of modern management. “Continuing the revolution in management research and education begun at Carnegie Tech, which placed social science and mathematical disciplines at the core, Bob brought scholars trained in those disciplines to the GSB,” according to David Kreps, the Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus. “He implemented the human resource management scheme of hiring young scholars who were leaders in their respective disciplines, then putting them in the MBA classroom where, led by the examples of their seniors, they evolved into great management educators. And he advanced the philosophy that faculty members should excel both in their academic research and in the MBA classroom, the philosophy of ‘balanced excellence.’ This philosophy served as the linchpin of his emphasis on academic disciplines in service to management research and practice, and guided his strategy for hiring and then developing a world-class faculty.”

Jaedicke’s success in this domain was palpable. With a growing faculty, new physical facilities were needed, and Jaedicke delivered, adding the 60,000-square-foot Edmund W. Littlefield Management Center in the spring of 1988. The new building housed offices for most Stanford GSB faculty members as well as classrooms and seminar and conference rooms. The addition came just in time. A little over a year after the Oct. 5, 1988, dedication, a powerful 6.9 temblor epicentered 39 miles away toppled all the shelves in the business school’s Jackson Library and structurally damaged Stanford GSB’s main South Building.

Repairing the earthquake damage, constructing new offices, installing a new computer system, developing new curricular programs, and expanding the faculty would have been a fundraising challenge individually, but combined, the task was daunting. All told during his tenure as dean, Jaedicke established 12 professorships, raised $18 million in gifts and pledges for the Littlefield Center and remodeling of the main building, raised $7 million to repair earthquake damage, and grew the school’s endowment to more than $53 million.

For former Stanford GSB associate dean for external relations Carol Dressler, and her successor, Chuck Sizemore, Jaedicke was a dream boss. “His integrity was one of the hallmarks of his effectiveness,” said Dressler. “He earned the trust of faculty, students, donors, and alumni easily, and as a staff member, there was little we could ask of him that he would not do to help the GSB. He had a keen sense of vision and encouraged new ideas and innovation, even if it was out of his comfort zone.”

Sizemore added, “In my 40 years of fundraising experience, I consider my time at the GSB to be the most fun and most likable professional experience. We would not have been nearly as successful as we were and had such a good team if it weren’t for Bob, because he gave us the freedom to do the things that we felt were necessary, and he also joined right in with us everywhere we went, all the way around the world.”

Jaedicke’s success as a fundraiser came as a surprise to some who thought his roots in academia, with limited external relations experience, would be a handicap. But he had strong ties to the community that really mattered: alumni.

“He was such a highly respected teacher — all the alumni who’d had him when they were students knew what a terrific guy he was, how much he cared about the school,” said Robert L. Joss, the school’s eighth dean. “Whatever he asked, the alumni would deliver. They knew Bob and that was really helpful. The alumni loved the school; they loved him as a teacher. I think it was easier than people thought — maybe easier than Bob thought it was going to be.”

Associate Dean

As considerable as his accomplishments as dean, many consider Jaedicke’s contributions to the leadership of Stanford GSB as associate dean to be even greater. Continuing the modernization of Stanford GSB begun under Dean Ernest Arbuckle and his associate dean James Howell, the Miller-Jaedicke team ushered in an era of progress that elevated Stanford GSB to preeminence in the world of management education.

From 1969 to 1979 Jaedicke managed the school internally while Dean Arjay Miller focused on outward-facing matters. Bob Joss, the Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean, Emeritus, explains: “Associate deans are unheralded but critical; they are the leaders of the faculty; they help connect the dean to the faculty, since the dean is so involved with the external relations of the school and with students. Bob was a great associate dean.”

“Bob made sure everyone understood that at the very top of the organization chart are the faculty, at the very bottom is the dean, and in the middle are the associate deans,” explained Chuck Holloway, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Professor of Management, Emeritus, who served as associate dean when Jaedicke became dean. “He understood how to motivate and instill a sense of vision in the faculty, so they could see the big picture and how their unique perspectives and novel research fit into the greater whole.”

As James Patell, the Herbert Hoover Professor of Public and Private Management, Emeritus, tells it, one of the keys to the great success of Stanford GSB’s fourth dean, Arjay Miller, was the management team he assembled. The former president of Ford Motor Company “tapped Bob and Jim Van Horne to be associate deans, and the three of them practiced a form of HR management that created an extraordinarily close and supportive culture within the school.”

Bob pushed tirelessly to make the GSB the best business school in the country.
James C. VanHorne

When he stepped down as dean in 1990 he was presented with the school’s highest honor, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award, which recognizes excellence in the field of management leadership and commitment to addressing the changing needs of society. Also that year, the Stanford GSB Silver Apple Award was renamed in his honor; the Robert K. Jaedicke Faculty Award is given annually to a member of the Stanford GSB faculty for service to the school’s alumni. And when he retired in 1992 the school established the Robert and Marilyn Jaedicke Faculty Fellow award in his and his late wife’s honor.

For Jaedicke, the love went both ways. In 1986 he and his wife established the Jaedicke Family Fellowship Fund, awarded to MBA and PhD students on the basis of financial need.

Contributions to the Field of Accounting

Bob Jaedicke teaching in a classroom. Credit: Courtesy of Stanford GSB
A highly-rated teacher, Jaedicke was honored with the Distinguished Professor Award for outstanding service to accounting education from the California Certified Public Accountants Foundation for Education and Research in 1985. | Courtesy of Stanford GSB

Jaedicke’s contributions as a scholar of accounting were considerable.

Prior to coming to Stanford GSB, Jaedicke served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School from 1958 to 1961, during which time he completed a year of postdoctoral study in mathematics and operations research.

“He was a key player in bringing new frameworks to managerial decision making,” said Wolfson, “and, along with many other luminaries, he contributed to its blossoming at Stanford throughout the ’60s and ’70s. He published at least five books of which I’m aware, and he published in the leading accounting journals. He contributed significantly to the financial accounting area as well.” Some of his published research was coauthored with scholars outside of accounting, which would harbinger Jaedicke’s later efforts to bring alternative disciplines to bear on understanding the broad role of accounting in society.

In 1961 he won the Lybrand Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Accounting Literature. The following year he received the Certificate of Merit for Manuscript, awarded by the National Association of Accountants. And in 1966 the American Institute of CPAs honored him with the Distinguished Contributions to the Accounting Literature Award.

“Bob was at the vanguard of a revolution in business education, one that used economic foundations, mathematics, and social science techniques to identify and focus on first principles of accounting,” according to then-Stanford GSB accounting faculty colleague Joel Demski, now retired. “But going beyond that is Bob’s leadership in the MBA and PhD programs at the GSB, where he insisted on foundations, first principles, and serious scholarship. His fingerprints and insistence are all over these programs, to this very day.”

Beloved by Everyone

Though he was not Jaedicke’s student, a young assistant professor of accounting at Portland State University named Philip Knight, MBA ’62, was thrilled when Jaedicke accepted his fall 1967 invitation to address the PSU accounting faculty and students, since his textbook, coauthored with Carl Moore, had just become the standard for accounting students at all levels.

“He was most friendly and accommodating, especially to new teachers,” wrote the Nike founder in an email. “At the time, I was running a small shoe company on the side. If you would have told me on that fall day in 1967 that Bob Jaedicke would one day be the Philip H. Knight Dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, I would simply have said, ‘Not a chance.’ I wouldn’t have believed Professor Jaedicke would trade in his huge rep in accounting circles for academic administration. But the idea that I would be in a position to fund a chair at my beloved Stanford University ... well, there was just no way.

“In visiting the school during the years of his deanship I would frequently drop by for a cup of coffee. He was always interested in what athletes we had recently signed and was particularly interested in what for him was the strangest endorsement: terrible-tempered John McEnroe. In his time as dean he was not just respected, he was beloved, and he lifted the school onto its path to be the unquestioned best business school in the world.”

Another alum with deep philanthropic roots and volunteer leadership service to Stanford, Steven Denning, MBA ’78, chairman of the global private equity firm General Atlantic LLC, described Jaedicke’s unique way of building relationships: “What made Bob different was his unrelenting empathy, deep concern, and sincere interest in me as an individual and as a member of the Stanford community. He never contacted you with a hidden agenda to ask you for something or convince you to do something for the GSB or university; he was just contacting you because he was interested in you, how you were doing, and what was on your mind at the time.”

The bonds he made were also lifelong. For nearly 50 years, Jaedicke served as advisor to CM Capital Corporation, retaining a close friendship with chairman Johnson Cha, MBA ’76, and his family. Pointing to Jaedicke as a noble aspiration for him to live up to, Cha calls him “one of the few greatest men that I have known.” So much so that in 2013 he and his wife Selina Gaw Cha, AB ’76, MBA ’79, his sister Priscilla Chou, and CM Capital Vice Chairman John Couch, MBA ’76, established the gift to endow a professorship in Jaedicke’s honor. In an email condolence to the Jaedicke family, Cha lauded: “He is endowed to the highest degree with what the Romans called virtus (virtue): moral courage, integrity, sagacity, prudence, personal civility, temperament, disposition, and devotion to the people he loved, to the service of education, and to the common good. No less important are Bob’s values. He believed in good government, international cooperation, good educational system, good citizenship, and contributing members of a civic society. This credo is valid universally, and he infected them by example in people like me that he had touched in his long life and career.”

Jaedicke was just as attentive to staff as he was to prominent alumni and donors. Since 2005, whenever he was in Palo Alto to attend a meeting of the CM Capital board of directors, he would reach out to a cadre of eight to ten mostly administrative assistants with whom he had worked, and invite them to breakfast before his meeting. “We would always start with a hug,” said Jeannine Williams, faculty assistant. “We’d hug when we got there, and hug when we left. We were so well known at the restaurant the maitre d’ would say, ‘Your gentleman is waiting for you in the back.’”

“He never ignored anybody,” said Sandy Jackson, retired executive assistant who worked with Jaedicke when he was associate dean. “Everybody was the same to him; he didn’t treat anybody any differently.”

Astonishingly, considering the staff numbered about 280, “Every year, for every staff member’s birthday, he handwrote a note wishing them a happy birthday,” remembered Barbara Firpo, facilities projects manager. “He was just such a kind, sincere soul.”

“There was not a stuffy bone in his body,” agreed Williams. “Leaders like that lead by example; they don’t need to pound their chest. And you bring yourself up to their level.”

“He made us want to perform at a high level because you didn’t want to disappoint him,” said Coral Hunt, alumni membership associate. “You just wanted to do your best. He was so warm. I wish there were more like him.”

“You could tell he was such a family man because he cared about our families,” said Yuri Woo, executive assistant in the office for the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. “He was always interested in what was happening in our lives and at the GSB. For every person he had contact with, he never saw that interaction as an obligation. I hope he realized how he enriched everyone else’s life.”

Jaedicke’s daughter Suzanne credits her father’s Christian upbringing in Hanover, Kansas, for his kindness toward others. “Dad’s parents and family were regular churchgoers and they were involved in their small-town community,” she recalls. “Dad said that the Golden Rule was referenced and modeled by his parents a lot in his home growing up: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Likewise, Dad and Mom raised us to treat others with respect, citing the Golden Rule. Also, Dad would say, ‘Never have fun at someone else’s expense.’”

“Cowboy Bob”

Bob Jaedicke standing by a fence with a horse next to him. Credit: Courtesy of Stanford GSB
An avid horseman, “Cowboy Bob,” as staff affectionately nicknamed him, often took faculty and staff families on horseback rides in the hills above Palo Alto; seen here with Ghazinandy (Andy) in the early 1980’s. | Courtesy of Stanford GSB

His love of the West and horses emanated from his upbringing as well. “Bob was quite an extraordinary weekend cowboy,” mused George Parker, the Dean Witter Distinguished Professor of Finance, Emeritus, a close friend and frequent riding partner. “Bob was just striking when he was in his full Western regalia, and he always had very handsome horses. He was such a skilled rider; it was a great pleasure to ride with him. In the summer, he would take these very adventurous, two- to three-week pack trips into the mountains of Montana. And he’d take family and friends, and maybe an outfitter. It was a very Western, rustic outdoor experience that was part of his persona.”

Jaedicke took great pleasure in sharing his love of horseback riding and the outdoors, inviting the newly arrived Wolfson and his wife, Sheila, for an unforgettable moonlit midnight ride one weekend, just because there was a full moon.

Nicknamed “Cowboy Bob” because of the Western decor in his office, he also extended invitations to staff and their families for horseback rides. “He offered my children horse-riding lessons, and a standing invitation for them to ride at any time,” Dressler remembers fondly.

Education and Early Career

The youngest of six children, Jaedicke was born on February 10, 1929, to Gertrude and August Jaedicke Jr. in Hanover, Kansas. He attended Hanover High School, graduating in 1946 after spending his senior year at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He immediately enlisted in the United States Air Force.

He served in the 10th Air Force at Brooks Field in San Antonio, Texas, and in the 3rd Air Division in England and Europe in 1948–49 during the Berlin Airlift. Honorably discharged in September 1949, he had attained the rank of sergeant.

Jaedicke earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1952 and an MBA the following year. He served on the faculty of the University of Washington during that time and then continued graduate work and served on the faculty at the University of Minnesota, where he received his PhD in 1957.

He married Marilyn E. Gettman after both graduated from the University of Washington. They had three daughters and one son: Suzanne, Nancy, Paul, and Carolyn. Marilyn passed away from brain cancer in October 1990 after 38 years of marriage. Jaedicke married Bette Hartman in 1992.

While dean and after retirement, he served on several corporate boards of directors including Wells Fargo Bank, GenCorp Inc., Boise Cascade Corporation, Homestake Mining Company, Enron Corporation, State Farm Insurance Company, California Water Service Group, CM Capital in Palo Alto, and Mingly Corporation in Hong Kong. He also served on several not-for-profit boards and was president-elect and president of the International Deans Group of the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business.

Jaedicke served as chair of the Enron Audit Committee at the time of extensive shareholder lawsuits. His role was closely scrutinized, and he was absolved of any guilt.

He and his family had a long association with Montana and Wyoming, spending whatever time they could in the Gallatin Valley during his working years at Stanford. He and Bette settled in Bozeman, Montana, in 1995, where they were active horse people and spent lengthy periods during the summer and fall horse-packing in the mountains of southwestern Montana, Yellowstone Park, and Wyoming’s Shoshone Wilderness. They moved to Cody in 2015.

Jaedicke is survived by his wife, Bette; sister, Margie Jaedicke; and five children: Suzanne Jaedicke of San Francisco; Nancy (and Keith) Haglund of Livingston, Montana; Chaplain (Colonel) Paul (and Karen) Jaedicke of Arlington, Virginia; Carolyn (and David) Potts of Bozeman, Montana; and Bette’s daughter Robyn (and Sean) Fatooh of Flemington, New Jersey. There are also eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic a private memorial service is not yet planned.

The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Cody Missionary Alliance Church, 147 Cooper Lane, Cody, Wyoming 82414.

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.

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