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An Unparalleled Impact

Harry Davis has had an incomparable impact on countless individuals and communities during his 50 years teaching at Chicago Booth. We celebrate him for his passionate and unswerving dedication to the school and for his unique ability to inspire his students and forge connections in the Booth community and beyond. To honor him, we are collecting stories from the communities he’s touched throughout the years. Please help us honor Harry by .

About the tree: The abstracted tree motif on the homepage was chosen because a key aspect of Harry's enduring impact at Booth is his ability to forge connections among the people he has touched, therefore nurturing new branches of ideas and inquiry.

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A Pioneer of Experience-Based Education

Harry L. DavisHarry L. Davis, the Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management, began his research with the smallest, most basic, and yet most universal organization in society: the married couple. As a young assistant professor at the Graduate School of Business, he was interested in how couples make decisions. Perhaps this was inspired by his master’s degree in sociology from Dartmouth College or by his marriage in 1963, the year he joined the University of Chicago faculty as an instructor.

That early work grew to a global scale as Harry earned a PhD in marketing from Northwestern University; taught, researched and published at the University of Chicago; and spent two years teaching behavioral science at the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management in Brussels. In the early 1990s, he pioneered laboratory education. He helped found the University of Chicago’s first international campus in Barcelona in 1994 when he was deputy dean of the MBA program.

The common thread throughout Harry’s work is curiosity about human beings, why and how we do what we do, personally as well as professionally. Harry’s major work at Booth always started with the students and often has been crafted by them. He is the first to acknowledge that none of his work is immutable. With Harry’s zest for experimentation, the same course taught two years, even two quarters in a row is never the same, which often amazes colleagues.

In 1978, he created the New Product Laboratory, where students take on product development assignments from corporations. In its 30-plus-year history, the Lab has evolved to fit the times: a greater focus on high-tech and industrial firms; smaller, more diverse groups of students from a cross section of disciplines; and a new name, Management Lab.

When Harry founded the experiential program Leadership Exploration and Development, now known as Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD), in 1989, part of its mandate was for 40 first-year Full-Time students to adapt the curriculum during their first year and facilitate the course the following year. The only required course in the MBA, it is credited with helping to catapult Booth from number 11 in the first BusinessWeek survey of the top US full-time MBA programs in 1988 to number 4 in the magazine’s second survey two years later. Along the way, Harry won the Phoenix Award for his contribution to student life and was named one of six must-have professors at Booth, based on a student input gathered by Veritas Prep.

He has long been involved in Booth’s Executive Education curriculum, creating programs such as "Enhancing Leadership Performance: the Leader as Teacher," which he co-taught with Barbara Lanebrown. And, like his work with MBA students, Harry rarely teaches the same class the same way.

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Fifty years of innovation and leadership

Harry Davis arrived at the University of Chicago in 1963. As an instructor in the following decades, he became an advocate of experience-based, or laboratory, education. In 1989, he launched the Leadership Exploration and Development program, now known as Leadership Effectiveness and Development (LEAD), which gives first-year students an introduction to leadership skills and is the only required course in the Full-Time program. He has received a number of awards and honors for his innovative and creative approach to teaching.


  • 1959: Receives AB, sociology, Dartmouth College
  • 1960: Receives MBA, Amos Tuck School, Dartmouth College
  • 1963: Marries Suzanne Ohlsen
  • 1963: Joins University of Chicago Graduate School of Business faculty as instructor
  • 1969: Receives AM, sociology, Northwestern University


  • 1970: Receives PhD, marketing, Northwestern University
  • 1971-73: Appointed professor of behavioral science, European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management, Brussels, Belgium
  • 1973: Appointed professor of marketing, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business
  • 1978: Creates New Product Laboratory (now called Management Lab), an intensive six-month course designed to complement the traditional curriculum by providing a real, hands-on component to the MBA program


  • 1984: Delivers the University Convocation Address titled "The Living University"
  • 1986: Initiates the Weekend MBA program to complement the Evening MBA program
  • 1989: Named Roger L and Rachel Goetz Professor of Creative Management
  • 1989-1993: Serves as deputy dean for MBA programs
  • 1989: Initiates LEAD, an innovative, student-led program designed to strengthen general management decision making and communication skills through experience-based learning. This is the only required MBA course in Chicago’s highly flexible curriculum.


  • 1992: With Robin Hogarth, coauthors “Rethinking Management Education: A view from Chicago.” This seminal paper outlined the framework for experience-based, laboratory education.
  • 1994: Pioneers first GSB international campus in Barcelona, Spain
  • 1994: Inspires Harry L. Davis Award, which is given annually to a graduating campus MBA student who has exhibited creativity, a willingness to take risks, and a strong commitment to the GSB. This award was established by the faculty to honor his contribution while serving as the school’s deputy dean from 1983-1993.
  • 1996 to present: Serves as trustee for the National Opinion Research Center
  • 1997: Named Distinguished Service Professor
  • 1997: Serves as faculty director of the Executive Education program, co-teaching, with Barbara Lanebrown, "Enhancing Leadership Performance: the Leader as Teacher," which later became "Leadership as Performance Art"


  • 2001: Chairs the Board of General Studies for The Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, which provides adults access to the University of Chicago through degree and non-degree programs in the humanities, arts and sciences, and professions such as education, business, public health, policy, technology, and publishing
  • 2001: Receives Phoenix Award for outstanding contributions to the Graduate School of Business as a faculty member both inside and outside the classroom
  • 2001: Delivers the convocation address to business school graduates titled "The Professional and the Amateur"
  • 2003: Serves as faculty lead for the Distinguished Fellows Program, where scholarship recipients explore the question of how leaders in various settings make an enduring and positive impact on their organizations and society
  • 2005: Delivers the convocation address to business school graduates titled "Being Silly, Seriously"
  • 2007: Heads Pichler Initiative, which provides support for the professional development of PhD students entering academic careers
  • 2008 to present: Serves on the Board of Governors, Argonne National Laboratory


  • 2010: Serves as interim dean and mentor to incoming dean Sunil Kumar
  • 2010: Delivers the faculty address to business school graduates titled "Why are You Here and Not Somewhere Else"
  • 2010: Serves as board member and treasurer of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore
  • 2010: Voted one of six must-have professors at Chicago Booth based on student input gathered by Veritas Prep, a graduate MBA preparatory company
  • 2010: Serves on the advisory board of the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, a new forum at the University of Chicago for innovative collaborations between artists and scholars
  • 2011: Serves as faculty director of the Executive Program for Emerging Leaders, an executive education program designed for University of Chicago staff
  • 2013: Celebrates 50 years on the Booth faculty
Share your story
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Share your story

Please share how Harry has inspired you through a written anecdote, photo, and/or video. You can write about anything you please, but if you could use a thought starter, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How has Harry influenced or inspired you?
  2. Have you learned concepts from Harry that you apply regularly in your professional or personal life?
  3. If you had to describe Harry in one word or phrase, what would it be and why?
  4. What is your first memory of Harry?
  5. How would you describe a class with Harry to someone who was thinking about taking one?
  6. Has Harry inspired you to do something that you never would have done had you not met him?

You’ve shared your story with us. Now it’s our turn to share some with you. Navigate here or click on any of the leaves at the top to read more.