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CBM takes a closer look at the very first Executive MBA cohort. Follow along as pamphlet distributed to these students in 1943 is restored in this issue’s feature “Paper Work.”

Whether or not they knew it, the 52 students who made up XP-1 blazed a new trail in business education. Their course of study, now known as Booth’s Executive MBA Program, was the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

The program’s creation in 1943 dovetailed with the wartime demand for skilled administrators, according to Taking Stock: A Century of Business Education at the University of Chicago, a 1998 chronicle of Booth’s history up to that point.

“It appealed to people whose lives had been greatly disrupted by the Depression and World War II,” said George Hay Brown, PhD ’45 (Economics), former associate director of the program.

For 20 years, it remained the only two-year graduate-degree program tailored to midcareer professionals. John Jeuck, AB ’37, MBA ’38, PhD ’49, who was an assistant director of the program early on and went on to become dean of the school, once called it a “crown jewel” that secured university support of the business school during a tumultuous period in Booth’s history.

Unlike today’s program, which represents 52 countries, XP-1 drew exclusively from the Chicago-area industrial hub—its farthest flung participant hailed from South Bend, Indiana. Many worked at iconic Chicago companies such as Marshall Field & Company and Walgreen Co., and all of them listed their phone numbers with old-fashioned telephone exchange names. (If it comes up at the next Ida Noyes Pub Trivia Night, dean William Spencer’s office line was MIDway 3118.)

Still, the fundamental aspects of the Executive MBA experience remain remarkably similar today. Then, as now, these 23 students grew their networks and prepared for the next phase of their careers, all while juggling work, classes, and family life. From Achtmeyer, S. William, to Wolff, Paul, they tackled this academic challenge as a cohort, studying together and learning the value of teamwork—just as their successors do 73 years later.