Today, business schools become less professional.
The University of Houston's College of Engineering
presents this series about the machines that make
our civilization run, and the people whose
ingenuity created them.
Luigi Salvaneschi came to
America from Italy in 1959. He'd been educated in
the classics. He found work frying hamburgers at
McDonald's. In four months he was running the
He went on to become a senior executive at
McDonald's. Next he took a vice presidency with
Kentucky Fried Chicken. He finally retired as
President of Blockbuster Entertainment.
Now Forbes Magazine runs two articles. One's about
Salvaneschi. The other is about the declining
fortunes of the fancy, expensive MBA programs.
Through the mid-50s, businesses snapped up MBAs
from prestige schools.
Now those students have a tougher time finding
jobs. Companies are weeding out their middle
management. Many companies feel that a good student
with a bachelor's degree is a better investment.
Business schools grew complacent with success in
the mid- 80's. They had plenty of students. Their
graduates drew high salaries. They stopped asking
what America really needed and whether they
provided it. At first, smug faculty didn't react
Now Salvaneschi addresses the question. He claims
that business schools have been training
narrow-minded professionals. Graduate schools have
only made that trend worse, he says.
So what's missing? Languages, literature, and
culture, says Salvaneschi. He's read classical
Latin daily all his life. Each time he went into a
new country for McDonalds, he first learned its
language and its history. He tells us,
I did not think I would understand the markets
if I did not understand the inner thoughts of the
people that formed those markets.
He says you can learn to build a business by
reading Dante. In The Divine Comedy,
Dante builds a whole universe. He thinks through
all the details. Literature will give you that
overarching structural sense. Balance sheets alone
Salvaneschi retired early. Now he's teaching in a
young business school in Florida. They're building
a new undergraduate curriculum. They require two
foreign languages. They give courses in the
politics and culture of other countries. So the
faculty of our business schools swing into gear.
They're making changes.
But those changes have a fascinating quality. They
move back toward traditional liberal education. At
its best, business builds a country's culture. And
that's never the work of a detached professional.
In the end, Salvaneschi simply reminds us that the
creative mind is the fully human mind.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds