How the College of Business came to be


by David Doremus


SUMMARY: Emergence as its own place mirrored changes in the larger world.

In 1958 — amid a global landscape which included the launch of the European Economic Union (EEU), issuance of the first credit card and registration of the trademark “Velcro” — Madison College's Department of Social Studies welcomed the first students to its business program.

Creation of the program reflected America’s post-World War II shift away from farms and factories in favor of office-based workplaces. Among its initial offerings were accounting and several classes in which basic skills such as typing and shorthand were taught.

With the subsequent formation in 1972 of the School of Business — the watershed event whose 50th anniversary we celebrate this year — the program finally acquired a separate identity.

A document titled “Description of New Organization at Madison College,” filed in the minutes of the Board of Visitors' May 15 meeting that year, described the projected composition of the new academic unit:

    Under the Division of Professional and Applied Studies … will be established ... a School of Business ...
    consisting of the departments of Business Administration — Economics and Accounting, Business
    Education and Office Management, and Home Economics.

Billy Hinton, the school’s first dean, set in motion its eventual transformation into a respected center of teaching, scholarship and research. When Hinton’s successor, William Hanlon, arrived in 1974, he made it his primary objective to secure accreditation for both the business school and the accounting program from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Hanlon correctly foresaw that attaining accredited status would be crucially important to the effort to attract and retain high-quality faculty. His labors bore fruit in the spring of 1982, when the School of Business was granted national accreditation by AACSB — a distinction it has continued to hold ever since.

This set the stage for the assignment to the school of the more exalted title “College of Business,” as part of an institution-wide renaming of schools and departments undertaken by President Ronald Carrier several years later.

At the meeting of the Board of Visitors on July 12, 1985, Carrier presented a resolution on which he called for immediate action:

    Whereas, at many universities the major undergraduate areas of the institutions are referred to as Colleges;

    Whereas, the nature and character of James Madison University have changed to the point that it would be
    more appropriate to refer to the University's undergraduate areas as
Colleges rather than Schools; and,

    Whereas, one undergraduate area, the College of Letters and Sciences, already carries the designation of

    Therefore, be it resolved that … the other major undergraduate areas of the University be known as

    – among them the academic unit formerly known as the School of Business.

In a separate but concurrent administrative reorganization, the accounting program also assumed a new identity in 1985 as the School of Accounting. It coincided with the school’s own accreditation that same year (unconnected with the accreditation already conferred on the College of Business) by the AACSB.

The School of Accounting thus became what at the time was only the 23rd program in the nation so recognized.

“The school was small but we went for the accreditation anyway and got it,” said the late Ralph Benke Jr., former dean of the School of Accounting, to an interviewer in 2013. “We were floored … it was a joyful time.”

The evolution of the College of Business’ name — and those of its constituent parts — is just one of the historic developments chronicled in the pictorial timeline installed last year on the first floor of the renovated Showker Hall.

If you haven’t already seen it, stop by soon!

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Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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