Business and Society; A Tribute to Steve Fuller

Article excerpt

Byline: Bernardo M. Villegas

This very belated tribute to one of the most outstanding persons I have known is being made now for two reasons. It was only late last year that I got confirmation about his passing away in January 2005 from his wife Frances. One of the Christmas cards I received last December 2006 was from Frances, where she very kindly told me details about the last years of Steve's life. The second reason why I have been moved to write this eulogy is my present position as Visiting Professor at the IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. My friendship with Steve was cemented during those years in the early l960s when he, together with two other Harvard Business School professors, helped in the establishment of an MBA program at what was then known as the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa (IESE for short). When I used to see him at the Harvard Business School during my doctoral studies at Harvard, he encouraged me to spend some months at IESE before going home to the Philippines. Thanks to his untiring efforts to help IESE in its foundational years, this business school has now become one of the best in the world. I am sure Steve found great satisfaction in seeing the accomplishments of one of his favorite projects before he left this world.

Since Steve had countless friends in the Philippines and in Asia,I am sure Frances would want me to share with them her brief summary of Steve's retirement years, l999 to 2005. According to Frances, Steve retired three times. This is another illustration of my firm belief that great persons define "retirement" as putting on a new pair of tires ("retire") in order to move faster than ever before. He first retired from General Motors in l983 after l2 years as Vice President of "salaried personnel, education affairs, etc.," having been at the Harvard Business School for 27 years prior to going to GM. Then he returned to HBS and retired from there in l989. He moved to Word Book Encyclopedia (on whose board he had been for several years) as Chairman. During this time, he and Frances moved to Athens, Ohio to honor a promise he made to his alma mater to teach for at least three years. Both of them taught at Ohio University for six years, two terms at OU and summer term at the National University in Thailand's business school for which OU provided faculty.

During the time when Steve was at the Harvard Business School, he participated in establishing MBA programs for managers in Southeast Asia, chiefly in Manila and assisting in the founding of a graduate school of management at the Ateneo University. When Ateneo and De la Salle University joined forces to establish the Asian Institute of Management during the second half of the l960s, Steve took a leave from the HBS to become the first President of A.I.M. Many of the top executives running the leading corporations of the Philippines today, including A.I.M. President Francis Estrada, are products of the MBA Program that was nurtured by Steve.

Steve also taught for one year at the HBS-sponsored executive school IMEDE in Lausanne (l960-6l). In l999, Steve had an almost undiscovered small stroke which left him with reduced lateral vision in his left eye. …