Weatherhead receives $2 million endowment from Case alumnus and former Microsoft executive
Contact: Janet Roberts
Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management is the recipient of an incredibly generous gift of $2 million from Robert J. Herbold, retired executive vice president and chief operating officer of Microsoft Corp., to its Information Systems department.
Known as the Robert John Herbold Professorship in Information Systems for the Weatherhead School of Management, the endowment will support two tenured associate professors in their mid-careers who are demonstrating rapid career growth as evidenced by excellent teaching skills, consistently excellent student ratings, a growing national reputation, and consistent publication of papers and books that make a significant contribution to the information technology profession.
“The driving force behind this endowment was my desire to help Case Western Reserve University achieve its goal of true excellence,” said Herbold. “I looked at a lot of alternatives and felt the Weatherhead School has tons of potential and a robust opportunity, with the new Dean’s exciting ideas, to use this gift to further that goal.”
Strong emphasis on student evaluations of candidates for these positions may seem an odd twist, but Herbold’s phenomenally successful career was inspired by Case professors Richard Varga and Fred Way, who gave him well remembered classroom inspiration. As a graduate student assisting Professors Way and Varga, he learned how a great teacher develops a great relationship with the students by bringing a lot of fun and learning into the classroom. He will be involved in the process of selecting the two associate professors.
“The key role of any professor or teacher in general is to get students excited about their particular area of study,” said Herbold. “A professor needs not only a good level of knowledge, but also the ability to connect and communicate with students. Getting students fired up and excited is what a teacher does best!”
Herbold’s impressive background, first at the Proctor & Gamble Company and later with Microsoft Corp., spans experience in every area of corporate management. He earmarked the endowment for information systems because he believes it gives students a unique sense of how organizations are put together and operate, providing a great foundation for business leadership. Herbold believes endowing funds in this area will help strengthen the overall Weatherhead program, reputation and standing on a national basis as well as generate real excitement on the part of students.
“Business school students need to graduate with an understanding of how an organization works,” said Herbold. “They need to know how information systems and databases can create competitive advantage, how to design and implement telecommunications networks that facilitate instant organization-wide communications, and how to architect information system infrastructures that enables rapid change of business models. Technology evolves so quickly that it is important for students to gain understanding of information system concepts and practices to become effective business leaders.”
Herbold’s love of learning and interest in improving the educational system extends beyond his gift to Weatherhead. Chosen by President George W. Bush as Chairman of the Workforce/Education Subcommittee of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), he led a team of nine corporate executives and university presidents in an exploration of the health of the U.S. “innovation ecosystem.” That ecosystem is made up of the combined efforts of the country’s technical talent, venture capital firms, and industry/government/university research activities and it is typically what spawns the bright ideas that become entirely new industries or help rejuvenate mature industries. The committee studied the status of the country’s science and engineering capabilities and the education pipeline that supports them. The resulting report, “Sustaining the Nation’s Innovation Ecosystem: Maintaining the Strength of Our Science and Engineering Capabilities” was prepared and submitted to the President in June 2004. As stated in this report, Herbold believes the ability of the U.S. to maintain its global industrial leadership is dependent upon the core capabilities which drive our innovation ecosystem, namely, our scientific and engineering talent,. He has taken concrete action upon those beliefs with his endowment to the Weatherhead School of Management.
“There is a deep appreciation on my part for the experience I had at Case,” said Herbold. “The school, the professors and the environment created excitement in me to tackle with confidence and enthusiasm the never-ending challenges in the business world.”
Although technically retired from Microsoft Corp., Herbold has no plans to rest on his laurels. He is Managing Director of The Herbold Group LLC, a consulting business focused on profitability. He is currently traveling extensively to promote The Fiefdom Syndrome, his recently published book about the turf battles and bureaucracy that undermine careers and companies and how to overcome them. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Weyerhaeuser Corp., Agilent Technologies, First Mutual Bank and Cintas Corp.
In 2001, Herbold and his wife of 38 years formed The Herbold Foundation, a private foundation that provides numerous four year scholarships each year for needy, talented high school seniors interested in majoring in math, science or engineering.
Herbold has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati and both a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in computer science from Case. He joined Microsoft in November 1994 after 26 years at The Proctor & Gamble Company where, during his last 5 years, he served as senior vice president of advertising and information services. Until his retirement in 2001 from Microsoft, Herbold was responsible for finance, manufacturing and distribution, information systems, human resources, corporate marketing, market research and public relations and, as COO, instrumental in the four fold increase in revenue and seven fold increases in profits the company realized during that time. From spring 2001 until June 2003, he worked part time for Microsoft as executive vice president assisting in the government, industry and customer areas.
About Case Western Reserve University
Case is among the nation’s leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Sciences.