On May 23, Columbia Business School alumni, students, faculty, and staff members gathered to celebrate the retirement of Professor Clifford Schorer, honoring his more than two decades of commitment to entrepreneurship at the School — a tenure that started by chance.
In the fall of 1993, a guest speaker arranged by adjunct professor Harvey Shulman couldn’t make the engagement. “I’ll send you someone better than me as a replacement,” the speaker said. He sent Schorer in his place.
A Long Island native, Schorer grew up in a blue-collar town and followed his father into the office-equipment business. From there, he quickly found his stride as an entrepreneur and went on to found multiple businesses in a variety of industries from office products, to digital storage, telecommunications, and real estate. The students and Professor Murray Low, then the School’s first full-time faculty member dedicated to entrepreneurship, were impressed with Schorer’s presentation. Low offered Schorer an adjunct faculty position to start the following semester. In 1996, he joined the School full time as the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence. He retired as director of the program.
“The Entrepreneur in Residence Program offers students the opportunity to tap into the diverse knowledge from a number of experts with different entrepreneurial skills — data analytics, scientific discovery, how to raise funding, talking to investors — all the elements of what makes a business great,” Schorer said.
Schorer was also co-director of IE@Columbia (Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School), a program that invites teams of students, faculty members, and staff members from across the University each semester to submit their entrepreneurial ideas, and provides a no-cost opportunity for aspiring teams to go from concept to launch. Resources offered include research, financial analysis, legal work, and science or technical knowledge. “We help nurture and bring these ideas to reality by having a team of experts work with them throughout the semester,” Schorer said.
Shazi Visram ’04, founder and CEO of Happy Family Brands, was awarded the Distinguished Early Achievement Award at the School’s Centennial Dinner in 2016 and spoke at the event about Schorer’s influence. “Your guidance as a professor has continued over the last 13 years and evolved into such an incredible friendship that means the world to me. I really thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Visram said. “With Happy Baby, I had an idea, and I went to Cliff and said, ‘I have this dream for changing the way children are fed in our country, and it starts with organic baby food.’ The response was, ‘OK, well let’s see how we can help you do that.’ That sums it up. If you seek, you will find. The caliber of people [at Columbia] and the willingness to be supportive of these new ventures and big ideas — you just can’t beat it.”
Schorer could relate to his student and alumni entrepreneurs from first-hand experience. Throughout his successful business career, Cliff specialized in launching high-tech companies. His focus is on businesses with unique ideas or technologies that require energy and guidance during their initial growth phases. His companies include a variety of enterprises ranging from medical electronics to video production, including Micromedia Applied Technologies, Real Estate Development Corporation, and the first Sharp Electronics distributorship in the United States.
At Columbia, in addition to teaching “Launching New Ventures,” Schorer served as faculty advisor to the Eugene M. Lang Investment Fund and in 1999 initiated the Entrepreneurial Greenhouse Program. In the spring of 2005, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to the study of innovation and entrepreneurship at the School. In 2007, he was awarded the Dean’s award for teaching excellence. In 2012 the Business School named a fund in his honor for his support of the Greenhouse program.
“Cliff Schorer represents the very best of Columbia Business School,” said Dean Glenn Hubbard. “The impact he has left on all who have been lucky enough to work with him, sit in his classroom, or tap into his knowledge to help them launch ventures is undeniable. The School community is grateful to have benefitted for so many years from Cliff’s contributions and expertise.”