An Enduring Transatlantic Alliance

50 Years of the Harvard-IESE Committee


The Harvard-IESE Committee, now in its 50th year, met on IESE’s Barcelona campus and took time out to hold a public session for MBA and Executive MBA students. The session was moderated by IESE’s associate dean for MBA programs Franz Heukamp.

Prof. Carlos Cavallé, one of the founders of IESE and former Dean of IESE (1984-2001), recalled the first meeting of the committee in October 1963 in Boston. IESE, which was already running advanced management programs, decided to launch an MBA and sought advice from Harvard Business School. "We didn’t know we were establishing the first full-time MBA in Europe," Cavallé said. "This was one of many things we didn’t know at the time." After that first meeting "it was as if the skies had opened. It was a very special feeling, like falling in love."

Cavallé said that what began as HBS offering advice developed into a symbiotic relationship that affects everything that could be of interest to the two schools. "What the two schools have in common in terms of values is that it’s not just education for competence, it’s education for leadership and personal and professional development," said Carl Kester, a committee member and professor of business administration at HBS. "Online learning is here to stay but leadership is an intensely social activity and you can’t learn it until you are participating with other people as you do in class – learning how to listen and to persuade. It takes time to be steeped in that environment, to learn and to develop values."

IESE associate dean Eric Weber emphasised that "what we have in common is a desire to help participants in the program to discover themselves and to have a positive impact later in their careers."

Richard Vietor, also a professor of business administration at HBS, said he believes that "IESE is by far the strongest business school in Europe." He added that he felt that "we tend not to worry about competition but if we were going to worry, it would IESE that we would worry about." He commented that Harvard this year celebrated 50 years since enrolling its first female student and said that over 40% of the MBA recruits are now women.

In conclusion, Cavallé said the question for young people as they think about doing an MBA is "what kind of position do you take in your personal life? These positions have to be tested and contrasted and improved and this is not easy to do until you are in a group of people with whom to share your views and unless you are open to the influence of others."

Harvard-IESE Committee

After the session, Harvard professors W. Carl Kester and Richard Vietor joined IESE’s Dean Jordi Canals and professors José Luis Nueno, Joan Enric Ricart and Eric Weber to discuss the future of business management and the role of education, as well as joint research and teaching projects and other topics of mutual interest.

The Harvard-IESE Committee, which has met annually since 1963 in either the United States or Europe, helped guide the establishment of IESE’s full-time MBA program -the first of its kind in Europe- in 1964. It has also played a key role in the development of joint international executive education programs, which were first launched in 1993.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the people involved and do not necessarily represent the views of HBS or IESE.