• Ford assembly line

1910s: While World War I and the sinking of the Titanic dominate headlines, the country also sees great progress, with Henry Ford producing automobiles via the first moving assembly line. Between the newfound capabilities created by automation of mass production and the wave of mergers that changed the business landscape at the turn of the century, it’s clear: a new era in US industry is beginning. When Columbia Business School is founded in 1916, the core of the Business School’s curriculum consists of “Applied Economics” courses covering finance, statistics, and insurance. The first class includes 61 students, eight of whom are women.


Babe Ruth

1920s: From Flappers to Prohibition, the 1920s were chock full of major social and cultural change. At the School, Benjamin Graham begins teaching a course on security analysis in 1927, laying the foundation for the field that would eventually define one of Columbia Business School’s major contributions to the world of business: value investing. The two-hour course was taught on Monday evenings and focused on the “origin and detection of discrepancies between price and value.” In 1926, David Dodd MS ’26 took charge of the School’s business and economics courses. He also transcribed Graham’s lectures. The two would go on to co-author their groundbreaking text, Security Analysis (McGraw-Hill), in 1934.


Soup line during the Great Depression

1930s: After the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression grips families and businesses across the country. Mindful of the importance of effective leaders, especially in times of crisis, William H. Newman, cofounder of the American Academy of Management, leads the Management Division at Columbia. He writes the first strategy textbook, Business Policies and Management, and compares the goals of modern business leadership to those of building the pyramids of Ancient Egypt.



1940s: While US troops fight in World War II through the first half of the decade, the entire nation gets involved in the war effort. The School is no exception: cutting-edge research into German U-boat attacks on American convoys by Columbia’s George E. Kimball and MIT’s Philip M. Morse is classified as a US Navy report and leads to the first American operations research textbook in 1946. Columbia University also houses the Statistical Research Group, which conducted mathematical and statistical research for the military, from 1942–45.


The Golden Age of Television

1950s: The post-war period saw many Americans enjoying a new level of prosperity while the economy experienced substantial growth. The School also expanded in these years, transitioning to a graduate, rather than undergraduate, program and starting what eventually became the Executive MBA. The program was inaugurated in the summer of 1952, when 44 executives from a variety of backgrounds gathered at Arden House for a six-week colloquium — and marked the beginning of the School's commitment to educating business people at every stage of their careers.


Dr. Martin Luther King

1960s: The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War make for a volatile decade, even as the United States experiences its longest uninterrupted period of economic expansion — driven in part by the increased focus on television advertising. During this era professors John A. Howard and Jagdish Sheth present their groundbreaking book The Theory of Buyer Behavior (Wiley, 1969) Howard and Sheth were the first to present the ICABS formulation of “Information → Cognitions → Affect → Behavior → Satisfaction,” which remains the basis for research into buyer cognition. In another sign of progress, Margaret Chandler, professor of organizational behavior, becomes the first tenured female faculty member.


The Alto

1970s: While Watergate and inflation rock the country, computers also emerge as players across industries and sectors. Professor Peter Kolesar is the co-winner of the Lanchester Prize in 1974 for the design of a computerized algorithm that optimizes the deployment of fire brigades in New York City. This innovation helped maximize the impact of fire crews while reducing stress on the fire department. The model is so effective that the FDNY continues to use it to this day.


President Reagan

1980s: Throughout this decade, several major natural and man-made disasters, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, strike a demand for more socially responsible companies. At the School, Professor Ray Horton, who has researched public management and municipal labor relation, helps found the Public and Nonprofit Management Program in 1982. This program was the foundation of what eventually became the Social Enterprise Program, and, most recently, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. The program has grown from fewer than two dozen students into an integral piece of the Columbia Business School experience. By the mid-2000s, at least 45 percent of students were involved in some sort of Social Enterprise activity.


The Internet

1990s: The Internet opens world communications, changing the way business is conducted and offering unique opportunities for tech-savvy entrepreneurs. On campus, the Lang Fund is established in 1996 with a $1 million donation by alumnus Eugene Lang ’40. The fund, which supports startups founded by Columbia Business School graduates, also leads to the establishment of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, a hub of entrepreneurial ideas and activities at the School. The establishment of the fund also helps kick off a new era of entrepreneurship, and research into entrepreneurship, at Columbia, with the goal of encouraging entrepreneurial thinking in any organization.


The housing bubble bursts

2000s: The US housing bubble eventually bursts, leading to the financial crisis of 2007–08 and sending scores of homeowners into foreclosure. Professor Christopher Mayer testifies before US House and Senate Committees between 2008 and 2012, during some of the darkest years of the Great Recession, using findings from research done with Alan Boyce, CEO of the Absalon Project, and James Witkin, research manager at the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. Mayer presented research drawn from a database of property fundamentals developed at the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, which eventually became the conceptual foundation of the Home Affordable Refinancing Program.


President Obama

2010s: With the economy continuing its slow but steady recovery, the business environment is ripe for innovative leaders who employ entrepreneurial thinking to connect the dots in today’s ever-changing industry landscape. In 2014, Columbia Business School launches the Columbia Business Lab as part of the School’s growing focus on fostering entrepreneurship and new ventures. The Business Lab gives nascent companies office space, networking opportunities, and classes — all to help them launch their companies. The foundation of the lab follows a change in the core curriculum to focus first-year MBA students more on leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Today, the School’s commitment to helping students make an impact on the world continues through the recent establishment of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, which will build on the School’s existing social enterprise program. The School is also preparing to move to its future home in Manhattanville, state-of-the-art facilities supported by generous donations from alumni and friends of the School that will provide flexible classroom space with the latest technology, faculty spaces that encourage cross-disciplinary interaction, and collaborative spaces for students.