Why Peter Drucker came to Claremont

One of the delights of my former job at the Drucker School was lunch with Peter every month or so at his favorite local spot, and the opportunity to listen to his thoughts on the latest project, whatever that might be. Early in 2001, his interest was “new demands on the executive”, which meant our executive students would invariably get a challenging new course the next fall on this very topic. Because my doctoral work was in management history I’m was also interested, while sitting at these lunches, to capture the oral tradition in areas his biographers may have missed.

So over a glass of merlot one day I asked Peter how he came to be at Claremont and got an interesting perspective on the development of executive management programs. He explained that, besides his work as a management consultant, he also served on the faculty of Bennington College and later taught at NYU. As he “neared” retirement about thirty years before this lunch, Stanford approached him with an offer to join their faculty. Peter and his wife Doris had seen enough of the Eastern U.S. [California winters must have looked enticing], and Peter had nearly accepted the offer when he learned they wanted him to participate on their curriculum committee. Howard Bowen, Claremont’s president at that time, learned of the Druckers’ quest for sunnier climes and contacted them. By now, Peter was fed up with administrative tasks, and had also decided to stop teaching management.

Bowen jumped on the next plane east and asked Peter what he really wanted. Drucker replied, in so many words, that he never wanted to see an academic committee again and was weary of teaching management. He hoped to teach History of Technology and Asian Art. [Peter was and Doris still is a world-renowned expert in Japanese art, and they had a formidable personal collection on display at the Claremont Colleges.] Bowen said “done” and Stanford lost Drucker.

Within two years, Drucker was back to teaching management. I asked what happened to Asian Art and he replied, “I learned everything I wanted to know about it already”.

End of subject.

About Wes Balda
Dr. Wes Balda is President of the Simeon Institute and prior Executive Director of the Oregon Business Institute at the University of Oregon. He also led the Centre for Advancing International Management [AIM Centre] and was Professor of Management at St. George’s University. Previously he was Dean of a School of Management in Oregon, and Director of Executive and PhD Programs at The Drucker School, Claremont Graduate University.