The information age is born when ENIAC, the world's first general-purpose electronic computer, flickered to life at Penn's Moore School. That year, Popular Mechanics magazine wrote about the day that computers might be slimmed down to a mere 1.5 tons. Few would have guessed, with experts estimating a market for perhaps five of the gargantuan machines, that computers would come to sit on nearly every desk in America, at work and at home.
Dorothy Swaine Thomas, PhD, is named Professor of Sociology at Wharton. Thomas was the first woman to join the standing faculty at the School and the first to hold a senior professorship.
Wharton relocates to Dietrich Hall, the first building devoted solely to the School. In 1941, Dean C. Canby Balderston began a campaign to raise funds for new quarters on land that Joseph Wharton himself had donated 45 years earlier. By the end of the decade, he had raised $2.3 million, and by September of 1952, the School had settled into its new home. Though Dietrich Hall was criticized for its spartan looks and small faculty offices, the building was considered the greatest success of Balderston's deanship. With more than 300 rooms in the new building, Wharton finally had space to grow. 1953
The Securities Industry Institute is established, the first and longest-running custom executive program among business schools. 1954
The University announces that for the first time, women would be admitted to the undergraduate programs of Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Both programs had been the last at Penn to exclude women. That September, 15 women enrolled as undergraduates at Wharton. In 1956, Carole M. Berman became the first woman to earn a Wharton undergraduate business degree, and eight other women went on to earn their bachelor of science degree in economics by June 1958.
Wharton names Jean Andrus Crockett, PhD, to the faculty position of Assistant Professor of Finance. Promoted to Professor of Finance by 1965, Crockett was the first female departmental chair at Wharton, the first woman to lead the Faculty Senate, and the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Crockett, who died in 1998, was a distinguished economist and scholar of financial interest rates, consumption and savings, investment, markets and the economics of health care. 1955
Howard E. Mitchell becomes Wharton's first African-American faculty member and only the second African-American professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
William J. Brennan, Jr., W'28, is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving for 34 years during a period of landmark decisions on civil rights and First Amendment protections. 1962
Professor Irwin Friend publishes a landmark study of mutual funds that raises doubts about the commonly held view that mutual funds generally perform better than an unmanaged portfolio of individual stocks. The study, prepared for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the most comprehensive report in decades, ultimately became a precursor to the rise in index funds and won wide recognition that led to industry reforms.
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When any young person at 18 years old says they want to go to the Wharton School, they're usually carved out of a different shape. And that hunger and that ambition makes them wonderful characters, wonderful people, who turn into great friends. They are the kind of individual that you keep in your life forever.
Wendy Finerman, W'82, Oscar-winning producer
What was the business environment like in the 1940s, and how did World War II affect the economy?
Daniel Raff: Understanding what happened in the 1940s requires recalling what happened immediately beforehand. The nation had never had a depression as severe as the one that reached its nadir in 1933; and we didn't start to pull out of it until the last couple years of the decade. Images of out-of-work executives selling apples on the street and the lines of the unemployed outside soup kitchens are familiar. The position of Midwest farmers was desperate. Industrial capacity utilization had essentially collapsed. It was in the context of an economy with such radically underused resources that an activist role of the federal government really began to emerge. Roosevelt experimented with counter-cyclical fiscal policy (though not very aggressive by modern standards), and the federal government began to intervene actively in conditions at the industry level as well. Then, of course, the world descended into war. Those responsible for running the American economy needed to worry about using the productive capacity of the economy not just to provide consumers with things that they wanted, but to produce badly needed war materiel like jeeps, navy boats, airplanes, ammunition. The war mobilization was a very big deal. This involved a lot of manufacturing for the government on a cost-plus basis, as well as the government taking an interest in how shop-floor labor relations worked, because strikes in military supply industries during times of war would have a very corrosive effect on general civilian support for war. By the end of WWII, our manufacturing sector was in radically better shape than those in all of the other industrialized nations. It was also true that an active regulatory role of government in the economy had become widely accepted. So by the end of the 1940s, we had massive productive capacity as well as room for big government. If massive productive capacity and big government shaped business in the 1940s, what shaped it in the 1950s?
DR: Towering over the 1950s you find the post-WWII Cold War suspicions of the Russians and their allies as well as concerns about revolution in China and, in response, a very substantial defense budget. You also saw development within American capitalism. Managerial corporations were becoming widespread and very large. Being a successful businessman increasingly meant having a corporate job. The most striking development of the 1950s was the early growth of diversified conglomerate corporations. International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), a prime example, had hundreds of subsidiary firms. The divisions were in many different lines of business that the corporate office really had to run them by the numbers – executive committees couldn't really have expertise on such a wide variety of areas. So the conglomerate companies had to play at being capital markets. Yet they didn't have great difficulty raising external finance, and they weren't penalized for their diversification. It's an interesting puzzle why this was so.
The simplest explanation for this lies in the idea that what conglomerates often brought to companies they purchased was systematic thinking about resource allocation, marketing, and finance. There still were not many people in business who had had any kind of systematic business education. Wharton had been granting undergraduate business degrees for three-quarters of a century, but we were the first, and even in the 50s there were not many such institutions. Nor were MBA programs as common as they are now. So the type of training which Wharton and a few other schools were providing was scarce and quite valuable. The conglomerates exploited it intensively.
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