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100 years at Lerner
The faces of some of those that have impacted Lerner College. From the top left clockwise: William Majett Jr, Jennifer Joe, William Markell, Lerner Diversity Council lunch event, Dana Johnson and Charles Link.

100 years of business at UD

Photo illustration by Lerner Communications Team

UD’s Lerner College celebrates the centennial of UD business education

In 1917, the United States entered WWI, Woodrow Wilson was president, the Progressive Era was ending and jazz music was all the rage. It also marked the first time Delaware College (University of Delaware’s predecessor) offered business administration classes to members of the community.

“The University of Delaware was among the first universities to establish a collegiate business program,” said Bruce Weber, dean of UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. “Lerner College today is proud of its legacy and our role in developing business leaders well-trained in management and economic principles.”

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, the Lerner College has celebrated this centennial of business at UD and shared important stories about Lerner’s past, present and future. Lerner’s 100 Years of Creating Opportunity timeline, for example, provides a digital visual tour through some of the college’s major milestones.

This year, articles published on Lerner’s Seeing Opportunity blog examined topics like the many ways life on campus in 1917 was different than it is today and information about the first four business courses ever offered at UD.

That article also describes the evolution of business education at UD over the past century, from the establishment of UD’s first MBA program in 1952  to the boom in experiential learning opportunities offered to Lerner students in recent years. The article also discusses the role of women, who were able to take business classes beginning in 1945 when Delaware College and Women’s College of Delaware combined.

A key figure in the history of women at the Lerner College was Lerner’s first-ever female dean, Dana J. Johnson. An article on Johnson’s accomplishments and impact on the Lerner College highlighted her crucial work on projects like Delaware’s state IT initiative and the cultivation of a strong partnership with JPMorgan Chase.

“She had the forethought to see how financial institutions were going to be so dependent on information technology going forward,” said UD Accounting Professor Scott Jones. “That’s the legacy that she left to all the future students of UD.” 

This article on Johnson kicked off the Lerner blog’s Breaking Barriers blog series, which tells the stories of the first individuals from underrepresented groups to join the Lerner College in key roles.

The Breaking Barriers series then featured William Majett Jr., UD’s first African-American business graduate. In a Q&A interview, Majett described his experiences of blazing a trail for generations of students after him. He discussed segregation in Newark and at UD, becoming friends with classmate Joe Biden, being inspired to continue his studies after the sad news of President Kennedy’s assassination, his own daughter’s graduation from UD years later and more.

“The barrier has been broken so I hope more of these students will take advantage of a great opportunity at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics,” said Majett, who also discussed his hopes for the future of the Lerner College. These include increasing representation of African Americans and other students from a variety of cultures. As Majett said, “There’s been a lot of progress, but there’s still more to do.”

In this vein, the next Breaking Barriers article focused on some of the people and organizations that are currently working to promote and develop diversity, equity and inclusion at the Lerner College. These include recently launched programs like the Lerner Diversity Council (LDC) and the Lerner Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).

Jennifer Joe, Whitney family professor of accounting and Lerner’s chief diversity advocate, said in the article that the LDC has “begun to introduce a greater understanding and culture of diversity in the college.” In terms of goals for the future, Joe reflected on Lerner’s need to include more underrepresented minorities in order to “provide a classroom experience that mirrors what we are preparing students for in their future: people of different ethnicities, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., who all come together to work toward common goals.”

Witnessing the Lerner College’s growth in the past and future has been its longest-standing faculty member, Charles Link. With 47 years and counting at Lerner, Link has been part of the college’s faculty for almost half of business’ 100 years at UD.

“There’s been a huge growth,” Link said of the changes he’s seen at Lerner throughout these years. Link also discussed the approximately 25,000 students he’s taught throughout his time at UD as well as his travels throughout the world on UD study abroad programs. The opportunities that programs like these offer to students are “outstanding,” Link said.

Today, the Lerner College continues to thrive, with more than 30,000 alumni across the globe. More than 3,500 undergraduate and 850 graduate students are taking classes taught by 150 faculty members, with plenty more history to be made in the future.

“Lerner is proud of the broad education our students receive in diverse subjects, and the attention that given to the social responsibilities of businesses,” said Dean Weber. “UD has long known that businesses contribute to making the world a better place, and we look forward to creating opportunities for our students in the next 100 years.”

This year also marks UD’s 275th anniversary. This timeline of important moments in the University’s history traces its growth as, “What began as a small school offering teaching classes in local community now boasts more than 23,000 students, including 2,200 international students, from more than 96 countries, all supported by 4,300 faculty and staff.”

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