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Krannert PhD alumnus James Cash Honored in HBS Building Renaming

Thursday, October 1, 2020

James Cash

BOSTON—Harvard Business School (HBS) announced that it would honor James I. Cash, a Krannert PhD alumnus and retired HBS faculty member known for breaking barriers for Black people, by renaming a building on its campus. The new Cash House name was recently unveiled in a virtual town hall attended by faculty, staff, and students.

“When one thinks of individuals who have advanced racial equity in the US, many names come to mind,” said Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria. “They are all leaders who, in ways that may be more or less visible yet always against all odds, realized tremendous personal achievements and also actively worked to lift others. Jim Cash is someone who exemplifies such leadership. Not only has he transcended many racial barriers in his own life, he also has propelled generations of Black students, faculty, and staff, as well as scores of business leaders, to successful and meaningful lives and careers.”

Cash joined the faculty of Harvard Business School in 1976 after receiving his MS and PhD degrees from Purdue University and became the first Black tenured professor at the school in 1985. It was the latest in a long line of remarkable accomplishments for a man already known as a trailblazer.

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, he was the first African American to accept a basketball scholarship in the Southwest Conference after signing on at Texas Christian University (TCU) in 1965. At six-foot-six, he dominated on the court and also in the classroom, where he majored in mathematics, becoming an Academic All-American in his last two years at TCU. As a Black student athlete in the south, he frequently encountered racism, even requiring a police escort when the team visited the University of Arkansas.

While at HBS, Cash’s scholarly work focused on the still nascent field of information technology. He quickly became a sought-after expert on the strategic use of IT. In the classroom, Cash was a powerful role model; he taught both in the MBA Program and in Executive Education, including the Program for Management Development, the Program for Global Leadership, and the Advanced Management Program. He also became a leader in the administration, serving as Chairman of the MBA Program, Chair of Baker Library, and Senior Associate Dean and Chairman of Harvard Business Publishing.

Beyond the School, his writing — in books, journals, and Harvard Business Review — caught the attention of CEOs of several major firms. Over time, his expertise, integrity, and judgment earned him seats, often as the first Black member, on the boards of Microsoft Corporation, Walmart, General Electric, Sprint, State Street Corporation, and The Chubb Ltd., among others.

"It is impossible to overstate the impact that Jim has had on students, faculty, and business leaders over the years," said Linda Hill, Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration. "Not only have I witnessed it first-hand, I've personally benefited immeasurably from Jim's generosity and wisdom, and most of all, his friendship. For the black community, he is an inspiration — a role model on what it means to be world class in all you do."