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1941-2016: School of Business Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Claire Hall

If Laurence J. Ackerman, the first dean of the UConn School of Business, could see how the small program he created has grown into an educational powerhouse, no doubt he would be pleased.

The School, then known as the School of Business Administration, started in 1940-1941 with fewer than three dozen students. Its formation was nestled between two seismic events in American history:  The Great Depression and the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.

Enrollment was slow until the end of the War, when returning GIs were eager to pursue a college education. In 1945 alone, the University saw a 90 percent increase in student enrollment.

Ackerman, who had previously worked as a professor, was a staunch believer in a quality education, said his son, James Ackerman, a Boston attorney. The dean didn’t care about palatial buildings—and often disagreed with others when they suggested pursuits that lacked a strong educational purpose.

Under Ackerman’s vision, programs in accounting, insurance, finance, labor, management, marketing and secretarial studies took shape.

As the School of Business celebrates its 75th anniversary this academic year, some of the beliefs that Ackerman espoused still shape the program today. He tried to hire the very best faculty, not only capable educators, but people who cared deeply about the students they served.

That is one of many threads that carries through to the school today, said John A. Elliott, the 14th dean of the School of Business.

“Much has changed over more than seven decades—the names and faces and some of the fields of study,’’ Elliott said. “The role of the School of Business has changed from strictly a teaching mission to one that also embraces both research and service to the community.”

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