Jay O. Light, dean of Harvard Business School (HBS) from 2005 to 2010, died Saturday, October 15th At his home in South Dartmouth, he has cancer. He is 81 years old.
Light taught at Harvard Business School for over four years. He enjoys interacting with students in the classroom (including after they graduate), is a gifted case writer and curriculum developer, and generously mentors junior faculty. As dean, Wright has guided HBS through some of the most important and challenging times in its history. In 2008, as the global economic crisis hit, Light moved quickly to strengthen the school’s financial structure. As a teacher, he mobilized a group of finance and economics experts at Harvard Business School to advance research into the causes of the crisis, conduct seminars and new course materials and courses to provide a deeper understanding of risk management, financial regulation and changes in capital market.
“Jay was like an expert in recessions,” said Angela Crispi, executive dean of the administration during Wright’s tenure. “He moved quickly to manage expenses while continuing to invest in people and activities at the heart of our mission. He was an amazing leader during very difficult times.”
University Distinguished Service Professor Nitin Nohria, who served as dean after Light, noted, “Jay gave me the best gift a new dean could ask for: a school that’s ready for the future. Plus, he’s a trusted Advisor and Voices Council. His dedication to the school runs deep and he is a true servant leader in everything he does.”
Wright joined the School of Business in 1970 after earning a Ph.D. from Harvard’s Joint Program in Decision and Control Theory. He quickly became an efficient and gifted teacher and innovative curriculum developer. Just two years into his tenure, he became the first faculty member to receive a new Teaching Excellence Award for his work in the first-year MBA program. He enjoys interacting with students as much as they enjoy learning from him, and that connection remains long after they graduate—many consider Light to be the person who best shaped their HBS experience and influenced their careers. Seth Klarman, 1982 MBA and CEO of The Baupost Group, noted: “Jay was a great friend and invaluable mentor. He was always willing to listen and share insights or perspectives. His kindness and generosity were limitless.”
Likewise, Jamie Dimon, MBA 1982 and Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co., said, “Jay was my teacher at Harvard Business School, and he commanded a great deal of respect from his students. He was strong and analytical, But big-hearted and good-natured. — a force of nature, but in a subtle way.”
Wright’s leadership is also reflected in his dedication to mentoring junior colleagues and many of the college’s senior faculty — especially Wright’s finance department — pointing to the impact he has had on their careers. Josh Coval, Jay O. Light Professor of Business Administration, said, “Most importantly, Jay taught me what it means to truly love what you do: love teaching, love your students, love your research, and love your career. Colleagues, love Harvard. Business School. Through his example, I learned to love family, friends, and life. I know HBS is a very different place today because of the love Jay has for this institution and all of us.
Wright’s contributions to HBS are broad and profound. “Wright understands that HBS and Harvard are bigger than any of us, and that making them better is important work — but to do it,” said Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard who appointed Wright as dean. , you have to see them. Obviously. He loves HBS and sees it clearly. That’s why he does it so much better than Dean.”
Light sees globalization as an important opportunity for the School, and has expanded HBS’s network of research centers around the world with the opening of a research center in India and the ambitious Harvard Shanghai Center. The new program takes MBA students to countries in Asia, Africa and South America. The seeds of the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab), which opened in 2011, were sown during his tenure — a thriving ecosystem that today includes the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab and Launch Lab X GEO.
At a university known for “every bathtub is at its own bottom,” Wright is committed to fostering closer collaboration across the university, including establishing and strengthening joint graduate degree programs, connecting MBA students with medicine, government and public policy, and legal connection.
HBS is widely recognized for Light’s initiatives to address systemic societal issues. For example, significant progress has been made in key areas of healthcare. In addition to its joint degree program with Harvard Medical School, HBS offers several executive programs for executive teams from the world’s top medical centers, including those in Boston. An innovative MBA elective, the Science of Business, has evolved into a robust field course open to the entire school.
“Jay was ahead of his time in many ways,” said Srikant Datar, dean of Harvard Business School. “He clearly saw the way business needed to play a role in solving society’s most pressing challenges and laid the foundation for the work we do today. His impact on the school is immeasurable and his legacy will be lasting.”
Jay Owen Wright was born in Lorraine, Ohio in 1941. Growing up in the Sputnik era, he was passionate about science. He studied engineering physics, earning a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1963, before joining the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, where he led a space mission analysis team. Convinced that he needed more management training, he entered Harvard’s new joint doctoral program and developed a keen interest in finance. After graduation, he joined Harvard Business School as an assistant professor.
An expert in corporate finance and risk management, Light has developed a new approach to teaching capital markets, resulting in a wide range of course material and a successful book, Financial system (with WL white). He has also written numerous articles and cases, one of which is still a bestseller on the Harvard Management Company. His Integrated Valuation and Negotiation course is used with all 900 students in the Finance course in the first year of the MBA program.
Dwight Crane, the George Fisher Baker Jr. Professor Emeritus of Business Administration and a longtime colleague said, “Jay has the ability to reimagine how things work and translate it into new ways of thinking about how financial markets work. Way. That made him an amazing teacher. He also became a skilled leader in the school. He was able to succeed in these positions because his colleagues trusted him.”
Throughout HBS Light’s career, he has held a series of leadership positions: as Finance Department Chair, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Planning, and Senior Associate Dean for Planning and Development. Looking back on his long HBS career, Wright noted as he stepped down as dean, “This is the best job I’ve ever had. Despite the challenges, being on campus has been an extraordinary time.”
Light was a director of Harvard Management Company, a director of Blackstone, a director of Partners HealthCare (Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and chairman of its investment committee, lead director of the board of directors of HCA Holdings, Inc., a member of several endowment fund investment committees, many Director of several private companies and advisor/trustee of numerous corporate and institutional capital pools.
After leaving Soldier Field, in addition to continuing to provide board service and free of charge While working in Boston, Light splits his time between his home in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and Jupiter Island, Florida. He often sailed to Condor Bay with a lifelong passion. A voracious reader of history and exploration—his office is adorned with his collection of antique maps—Light also continues to consume numerous books, including biographies.
His wife Judy survived. His daughter Anne, her husband Jason and their daughter Olivia, from California; his son, James, Colorado; and his sister, June, Michigan.