Campus & Community

HBS’s Paul. R. Lawrence, 89

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Giant in the history of organizational behavior

Paul R. Lawrence, a renowned sociologist and a pivotal figure in the intellectual history of Harvard Business School (HBS), died Nov. 1 in Bedford, Mass. He was 89.

Lawrence was one of the world’s most influential and prolific scholars in the field of organizational behavior. At the time of his death, he was the School’s Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Organizational Behavior Emeritus. His research, published in 26 books and numerous articles, dealt with the human aspects of management. In particular, he studied organizational change, organization design, and the relationship between the structural characteristics of complex organizations and the technical, market, and other conditions of their immediate environment.

“One of the early and most important figures in organizational behavior, Paul Lawrence legitimized it as a field worthy of study at a business school,” said HBS Professor Michael Tushman, who holds the chair at Harvard Business School named in honor of Lawrence in 1999. “He was a pioneer in creating a body of work, a cadre of students, and a doctoral program in organizational behavior that has aspired to do research that is both professionally rigorous as well as relevant to practitioners. Paul was a role model to those of us fortunate enough to be his students. He was also a role model to the field of organizational behavior. With a remarkable lifelong intensity about his research, he never let up in his quest for understanding organizations in our society. I am honored to hold the Paul R. Lawrence Professorship, a constant reminder of his role in my life as my mentor and friend. He is the standard to which we all should aspire.”

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Lawrence’s memory to the Cambridge Community Foundation (c/o Bob Hurlbut), 99 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139. Those who wish to share their remembrances of Lawrence’s life are invited to do so on his blog,

A memorial service will be held on Nov. 8 at 11 a.m. in the Story Chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

To read the full obituary.