KM: Have you seen corresponding changes in each new generation of business students?

JM: No. People are still interested in getting a fair return on their capital, and that includes students. I teach mostly MBA and other master’s students, who in a typical sense haven’t changed. They are hardworking. They are serious. They want to do well. That’s not to say they, like the rest of us, are not lazy on occasion. I enjoy students more now than I used to because I’ve learned to relax a little bit. I derive tremendous pleasure from interacting with our students. I particularly feel enriched by having a large international contingent.

KM: What do you find most enjoyable about your outside consulting work?

JM: I used to do more consulting than I do now. Other than my role as a board member, most of my work is litigation-related. It’s teaching. I have the great pleasure of working with very smart lawyers and helping them articulate the nuances of financial transactions that they might not otherwise be familiar with. And if a case goes to trial, there is the wonderful opportunity to explain very complex financial transactions in terms that are accessible to a very broad, heterogeneous and captive audience of jurors. Or, in a bench trial, to a judge who may one day hear a labor dispute, the next day is working on a homicide, and the next is suddenly confronted with a challenging financial case. They want to be told what’s going on in words they can understand.

KM: What are some of the most gratifying interactions you’ve had with former students and alumni?

JM: One year, about eight months after graduation, I received email from a former HR student whose one and only class in finance was our core course.

John McConnell

(Photo by Andrew Hancock)

It said something to the effect, “Thank goodness for McConnell’s class, because from the first day I took my job, I’ve been doing nothing but finance work.”

That’s typical of a lot of comments I get from former students, even those in human resources management. They often don’t realize that a large part of what they will do requires an understanding of the costs and benefits associated with HR programs and how those will impact the bottom line.

Another example of a typical but rewarding experience happened earlier this year when I was visiting the Lafayette Orthopaedic Clinic. A doctor whom I happened to know but wasn’t there to see went out of his way to find me and tell me that his daughter had just completed our master’s program. He just glowed with praise when describing how appreciative and grateful she was for the wonderful educational experience provided to her. When you hear something like that, it’s very enriching.

At this year’s spring commencement, two of my former students who happened to marry each other came up to me and told me their son was graduating with this year’s class. In addition to making me feel old, it was great to know that they felt good enough about our program to send their child through it. Those are the sorts of experiences that have kept me at Purdue and Krannert for more than 30 years.

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