Johnson mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Alan K. McAdams

9/17/2013 5:07:00 PM

Beloved economics professor taught Cornell University’s MBA students for 50 years

Alan McAdams

Alan K. McAdams, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Johnson, respected and honored teacher, colleague, and friend to so many in the Johnson community, passed away peacefully on Saturday, Sept. 14.

McAdams joined Cornell University’s Graduate School of Business and Public Administration, later to become the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, in 1960, after earning his MBA and PhD from Stanford University, and his BA from Yale University. He had previously served four years aboard the USS Gatling in the US Navy, and was engaged in the Korean conflict. Throughout his 50-year tenure at Johnson, he taught and mentored thousands of graduate students, and is remembered by so many for his passionate teaching. He was appointed a professor emeritus when he announced his retirement on his 80th birthday, March 1, 2010, and he continued to frequent the emeritus office in Sage Hall right up through the second week in September.

McAdams’ interests and numerous publications — including books, monographs, articles, and reports — focused on global strategies for knowledge management, environmental management, and management consulting. He served three consecutive terms on the university's Faculty Advisory Board on Information Technology (FABIT). His students remember him for challenging them to think, and he was proud to be the first faculty member to be twice honored (in 1996 and 1998) with the Stephen Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, voted upon by members of the five-year reunion class in recognition of a faculty member whose teaching has continued to influence them five years into their post-MBA careers.

“I will miss Alan McAdams a great deal,” says Angela Noble-Grange, MBA ’94, senior lecturer of management communication. “He taught me about consulting, industrial policy, and strategic intent. Perhaps more importantly, he taught me to believe in and fight for my ideas. I l respected and looked up to him when he was my professor and I enjoyed time with him when we became colleagues. He was an extraordinary man whose legacy lives on in those of us he taught.”

Enthusiastic, erudite, and eloquent, McAdams was never one to shy away from expressing strong opinions.

“Alan was always excited about some project, and he always jumped in with both feet,” says long-time friend and colleague Professor L. Joseph Thomas, associate dean for academic affairs and Johnson dean emeritus. “Whether he was talking about industrial policy or the importance of bringing fiber connections to the entire country and world, he tried to sell his position passionately.”

As McAdams’ career clearly shows, he was highly respected for his views. He was a senior staff economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, 1971-72, with responsibilities in science and technology policy, antitrust policy, and pollution control. From 1971 to 1982 he was chief economic consultant and expert witness for the government in United States v. IBM. He was a consultant to industry, government, and the Ford Foundation. He was a senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), focusing on matters of science and technology policy, and received many citations and awards from that organization. Twice he chaired the Committee on Communications and Information Policy (CCIP) of the IEEE-USA, where he was lead-drafter of several "position statements" that were endorsed by the board of the IEEE-USA, as well as lead-drafter of joint Cornell-IEEE-USA research reports dealing with advanced fiber networks (AFNs).

Alan was enthusiastic about his ideas, all of them,” says friend and colleague Hal Bierman Jr., professor of management and finance. “He was fun and interesting to be with. He is missed.” 

Related links:

Obituary in the Ithaca Journal, 9/17/13

Faculty Profile in Johnson’s Annual Report 2009-2010

Faculty Bio 

Photo Slide Show