Milton S. Eisenhower assumed the presidency of Penn State in 1950 with a simple mandate: build an institution that merits national recognition. The 1953 formation of an autonomous school of business, the offspring of the Commerce and Finance Department in Liberal Arts, was a step in that direction.
More than 50 years after its founding, Eisenhower’s vision for the future has become reality in the Smeal College of Business. Over five decades, the college has advanced steadily, building on its undergraduate, graduate and executive education programs, and its major research centers. Today, Smeal offers a unique combination of vast resources and personal focus to its students and partners.
A story that began in 1953 with Ossian R. “Bob” MacKenzie as founding dean has continued through the deanships of Eugene J. Kelley, J.D. Hammond, Judy Olian, James B. Thomas, and currently Charles H. Whiteman. As the business environment has evolved, each leader has overseen the launch and renewal of key initiatives and programs that have addressed the changing business landscape; preparing graduates for what’s ahead, responding to the needs of business partners, and advancing present-day business practices.
Developments such as the introduction of the MBA program in 1959 and the emergence of its respected communications program in the 1970s have set the tone for progressive innovation within the college. From the development of Penn State Executive Programs – which helped solidify the college’s partnerships with the business community during the early years – to the initial creation of several centers and institutes under the Division of Research, to the recent launch of the Smeal Executive MBA program in Philadelphia, Smeal has earned a place among the national and international leaders of business education.
Smeal’s connection to its own alumni base has also grown and flourished during its history. One of the most enduring alumni connections was forged in 1990 with the naming of the college for Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal ’42/’42, two of Penn State’s most generous benefactors. Their contributions created five endowed chairs within the college as well as a separate endowment for program excellence. Today, Smeal counts more than 74,000 alumni around the globe.