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The Gospel According to Drucker and Albrecht : Claremont MBA Program's Gurus Look to Future

November 09, 1987|JONATHAN PETERSON | Times Staff Writer

At the Claremont Graduate School, when they talk about classes in management, invariably they talk about a professor named Peter. But if you were to have a chat with Peter, he might tell you the real apostle was Paul.

Paul is Paul A. Albrecht, an administrator at the school who was thinking about the needs of experienced managers when he sought to glean important lessons from such fields as marketing, finance, economics and accounting and "tie them together and put them into some kind of vision for the future."

That was back in the early 1970s. Peter is Peter F. Drucker, the Vienna-born management guru who agreed to join the faculty at the time, seeing under Albrecht's stewardship a climate where history, philosophy and literature could be used to breathe insights into the myriad issues of managing people. "I was the back-seat driver," Drucker recalls wryly of the early partnership. "But he went where I wanted him to go."

The management program, a part of the graduate school--one of the six independent colleges on the 317-acre Claremont campus--has just gone through an extraordinary period. On Oct. 21, it dedicated the Peter F. Drucker Management Center in honor of its most celebrated faculty member. Earlier in the month, it announced the formation of a board of visitors, a group of 25 business leaders who have agreed to meet with faculty and students once a year.

And Claremont was rated first among smaller or "regional" business schools in the West, based on faculty, curriculum and overall preparation of students, in a survey of business school deans conducted by U.S. News and World Report.

Clearly, Peter and Paul have taken the program in its own direction. While many business schools seek to explain the world through mathematical models, Claremont has tried to be broader than that, faculty members say. At the same time, it remains determinedly small, its core of 10 people on the management faculty supplemented with dozens of others from such fields as philosophy, psychology, public policy and mathematics.

To keep a close watch over quality, it has resisted pressures to create "satellite" classes closer to downtown, meaning that Los Angeles students face an hourlong commute if traffic is heavy on the 35-mile trek east to Claremont. Tuition is $9,930 per year, reflecting the stiff costs of maintaining a private program with a respected faculty.

And in an era when many young people perceive a master's degree in business as a ticket to the good life, the school has avoided a narrow vocational stress that might be a plus for certain lucrative jobs. "If you really want to be an investment banker, then there are other schools that can train you better for that, in terms of technique," said Richard Ellsworth, a management professor, who earlier this year taught "ethics in management" with a philosophy professor. "Claremont is oriented to creating good, all-round business leaders rather than specialists or technocrats."

While Albrecht, 64, played the organizer's role, Drucker--author of at least 22 books and a reknowned pioneer in management studies--has served as the school's intellectual beacon, the light that drew students and outside attention. Paul says admiringly of Peter: "He really filled the role of a star faculty person--which he is. He was tremendously crucial to all of this."

When Drucker seeks to make a particular point in class, the whole of humanities are fair game. He has been known, for example, to draw parallels between officers communicating on a World War I battlefield and managers communicating in a modern corporation. "A typical lecture will cover not only the subject but also food, music, art, history, philosophy and theology," said John Kanz, 51, a Claremont doctoral student and a manager at Hughes Aircraft.

Drucker, who turns 78 today, calls the school's success "a very great personal happiness." He made clear in an interview that he draws from so many disciplines because he sees management as no less than "the nature of man, the nature of God, and--believe me--the devil, too. When you're dealing with man, you're dealing with good and evil."

Two MBA Programs

And he has no shortage of suggestions for improving the way things are run: "If you start out asking, 'What would I like to do?' you will end up ruining your business and yourself," he recently lectured a group of reporters. "You have to ask, 'What does the business need?' It's that simple."

Yet despite Drucker's magnetic presence, there are other reasons students attend the program. Many who have experienced the impersonality of much larger universities are comfortable with its small, relatively close-knit academic community. The Drucker center features two separate MBA programs, one oriented to 218 students in the early stages of their careers. The "executive" program, geared to those who have attained a middle level or even higher, has 249 students whose average age is 43. Claremont offers a doctoral degree in executive management as well.

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