Campus & Community

Myles Mace, Expert on Entrepreneurship, Dies at 88

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Myles Mace

Former Harvard Business School Professor Myles L. Mace, a pioneer in the study of entrepreneurship and corporate governance, and a member of numerous corporate boards, died on Friday, March 24, in Natick, Mass. He was 88 and a long-time resident of Dover, Mass.

Mace was born Oct. 10, 1911, in Montevideo, Minn. He received a bachelor of science degree in law in 1934 from the University of Minnesota, which awarded him its Distinguished Achievement Award 25 years later. He earned an L.L.B. from the St. Paul College of Law in 1936, when he also became a member of the Minnesota bar. He then entered Harvard Business School, earning his M.B.A. in 1938. Mace remained at the School as a research associate before leaving for military service in 1942.

He left the service in 1946 as a lieutenant colonel and the holder of the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Mace returned to Harvard Business School (HBS), and in the midst of the heightened economic activity following World War II, he created the first course in entrepreneurship at Harvard (and probably any school) in 1947. Titled The Management of New Enterprises, the course has remained, in various incarnations, a fixture of the HBS curriculum for decades and is regarded as the foundation of the School’s extensive entrepreneurial management program.

Mace’s longstanding interest in corporate governance began with the research he undertook for his Harvard doctoral dissertation, which was published as a book in 1948 under the title The Boards of Directors of Small Corporations. Following the publication of two additional books, Growth and Development of Executives and Management Problems of Corporate Acquisitions, Mace took a leave of absence from his teaching duties to undertake a project involving in-depth interviews with more than 100 chief executive officers and board members. The result was the 1971 publication of the influential book Directors: Myth and Reality.

Mace’s research on boards of directors aroused considerable interest – and some anger – in the business community by bringing to light for the first time the fact that many boards were then mere rubber stamps for top management. Putting his research into practice, Mace served on the boards of Litton Industries; Interchemical Corp.; Jostens, Inc.; Hanes Corp.; Squibb BeechNut; Camp, Dresser & McKee; United Technologies; and Harte-Hanks Newspapers.

In 1955, Mace accepted an offer to join Charles B. (Tex) Thornton, who had just bought the Litton Co., a small electronics firm in California. Working with Thornton from 1955 to 1958 as vice president and general manager of the Electronics Equipment Division, Mace guided Litton’s annual sales growth from $3 million to more than $80 million, as the company went on to become one of the most famous conglomerates in the history of American business.

Mace decided to return to the Harvard Business School, where he remained until his retirement in 1972. During those years, he involved himself in a number of School activities, from teaching in a program for faculty members from foreign business schools to serving as the School’s first associate dean for external affairs to acting as a contributing editor of Harvard Business Review from 1975 to 1978.

In 1984, Mace received Harvard Business School’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

Commenting on Mace’s career, Professor Howard Stevenson, an HBS colleague, said, “Myles Mace was one of the great innovators. He focused on building an effective board of directors when the role was largely ceremonial. He developed an international business course before it was seen as important. For those of us who worked with him, he was a demanding, insightful friend who brought out the best in those around him. He was a wonderful role model of an involved teacher, a life-long learner, and a dear friend.”

In retirement, Mace remained active despite becoming blind because of glaucoma. He continued to serve on several boards, wrote articles, and was consulted frequently by former students and colleagues.

Mace was a member of the Harvard Club; the University Club of New York; The Country Club of Brookline, Mass.; The Ekwanok Country Club of Manchester, Vt.; and the “M” Club of the University of Minnesota.

He leaves his wife, the former Adelaide Rowley; two sons, Myles Jr., of Dover, Mass., and Terrence of Fox Island, Wash.; and two grandchildren. At the request of the deceased, the immediate family will hold a private gathering. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Mace’s name to the Dover Conservation Trust, Dover, Mass.