Campus & Community

Business School’s Marshall dies at 86

6 min read

Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Emeritus Martin V. Marshall, a driving force in the development of the School’s Owner/President Management Program (OPM) for entrepreneurs and a marketing and advertising expert whose practice-oriented approach to teaching and course development left a lasting impact on countless Harvard M.B.A. students and business leaders, died on Feb. 16 in Napa, Calif. He was 86 years old.

“Marty Marshall was a terrific teacher,” said Stephen A. Greyser, the School’s Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, who was an M.B.A. student of Marshall’s and then a longtime friend and colleague. “Marty would home in on the topic at hand and not let students wiggle or wriggle off their previous statements,” Greyser remembered. “He pursued the point by pressing the students, but without being mean-spirited.” Marshall joined the HBS faculty in 1949 and was later named the first Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration. He retired from the active faculty in 1993.

He produced some 200 cases and teaching notes as well as several books, including “Automatic Merchandising” and “Cases in Advertising Management.” He was best known for his work with OPM, where he had a loyal following among generations of entrepreneurs. Many OPM participants kept in touch with him long after they had graduated, often seeking his advice on difficult business decisions.

Marshall began teaching in OPM in the late 1970s, when it was known as the Smaller Company Management Program (SCMP). As program head, he changed the curriculum after noticing that participants no longer represented just small companies, but firms that might be multimillion-dollar enterprises. He also helped devise a unique schedule spread over three years and changed the name of the program to reflect the common thread among participants — their role as both owners and managers.

Marshall’s career was varied and full at HBS and beyond. He taught in almost every educational program at the School, including the Advanced Management Program for senior executives. He also initiated major on-campus executive education programs in marketing management — two for advertising and broadcasting professional organizations and the third catering to international businesspeople. “He provided a terrific linkage to the world of advertising and marketing,” noted Greyser.

To expand his global view of business, Marshall worked with management schools in Europe, Japan, India, Mexico, and Australia. In addition, he led several important policymaking committees and was on the faculty of the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration (HRPBA), a one-year graduate program for women taught by HBS professors at Radcliffe College until 1963. At the urging of his first wife, the late Rosanne Borden (herself an HRPBA graduate), he spearheaded the effort in the 1960s to make the two-year M.B.A. program at HBS coeducational.

When Marshall first came to HBS in 1943 as part of his U.S. Navy training, he had no intention of remaining for any length of time. An avid history buff who had read most of his college history texts while still in high school, he had intended to pursue a career in law.

But service in World War II intervened. After enlisting in the Navy, he was sent to officers school at Columbia University, then reassigned to HBS, where he completed the first year of the M.B.A. program before going on active duty from 1944 to 1946. “Having been in lecture classes in college, I was astonished by the way HBS professors conducted case discussions. It was my first true experience in thinking — and I loved it,” he remarked with characteristic candor.

Marshall’s management experience in military logistics and supply persuaded him to return to Harvard to complete his M.B.A. when the war ended. Earning his degree in 1947, he was asked to stay on at the School as a case writer in marketing, working with seminal HBS marketing faculty such as Melvin Copeland, Malcolm McNair, and Pete Borden. When Borden became ill unexpectedly (and eventually took a leave of absence), he asked Marshall to teach his advertising class — a responsibility not normally entrusted to a case writer. Marshall embraced the challenge, and buoyed by the experience, embarked on a doctorate at the School, which he completed in 1953.

Martin Vivan Marshall was born on July 22, 1922, in Kansas City, Mo. He gained his first exposure to the basic principles of marketing while working as a stock boy at a Safeway grocery store. “In 1939, one of Safeway’s five milk suppliers offered me a few dollars a week to keep restocking his milk on the right side of the display case,” Marshall remembered. “When the milk kept moving out of the right side but not the left, I realized the supplier simply recognized that most people reach with their right hand to grab the closest bottle. That’s when I first became intrigued with human behavior and how it can be influenced — and with the basic concept of marketing.”

Marshall received a Distinguished Service Award from HBS in 1998 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the School and the field of business education. The citation accompanying the award read in part: “You have provided people with directions for success in business and in life. Magnificent motivator and mentor, you have taught us all that education for executives should know no end.”

Marshall was a consultant to several multinational corporations, including Sears Roebuck, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, and American Express. He also served on the board of Youth Services International, which provides care and developmental services for at-risk youth.

In addition to his wife, Hildegard Doherty, Marshall is survived by his sister, Marietta Siegrist, of Overland Park, Kan.; three sons and two daughters-in-law, Martin D. Marshall and his wife, Debra Terzian, of Sudbury, Mass., Michael Marshall and his wife, Susan, of North Salem, N.Y., and Neil Marshall of Waltham, Mass.; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Burial will be private. A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Professor Neil H. Borden-Rosanne Borden Marshall Financial Aid Fund, c/o Kerry Cietanno, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163.