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School News

July 30, 2008

Former Wyeth CEO Is New Executive in Residence

Robert Essner, former chairman and CEO of Wyeth, will work closely with the School’s healthcare program and mentor current students.


Columbia Business School's newest executive in residence is Robert Essner, former chairman and CEO of Wyeth, one of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world.

As Wyeth's top executive, Essner was a proponent of research and development, dedicating high levels of funding to biotechnology and Alzheimer's research.

In 2004 he told the Wall Street Journal: "Innovation is the most important, scarcest and most fragile asset in the industry today."

Essner joins Columbia Business School's Executives in Residence Program for a one-year renewable term, during which he will be available in a mentoring capacity to all students and will work closely with the healthcare program.

Founded in 1971, the Executives in Residence Program integrates semiretired or retired top business leaders liks Essner into the School, and provides a direct line of access to experts in fields ranging from media to investment banking to management.

Past executives in residence have included Wolfgang Bernhard '88, former CEO of Volkswagen, AG; Leo Hindery, Jr., former CEO of AT&T Broadband and former president of Tele-Communications, Inc.; and Philip Condit, former CEO of The Boeing Company, among others.

During his 19-year tenure at Wyeth, Essner held top executive positions in Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and in Wyeth-Ayerst Global Pharmaceuticals. He was elected CEO in 2001 and chairman in 2003, and officially retired on June 27, 2008.

Essner is chairman of the Children’s Health Fund Corporate Council and a member of the Business Roundtable and Business Council. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and formerly served as chairman of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.