General Georges Doriot as Teacher

I’m reading Spencer Ante’s interesting new biography of Georges Doriot, who founded the nation’s first venture capital firm, American Research and Development, in Boston in 1946. Doriot immigrated to the U.S. from France in 1921, when he was 21 years old, to attend MIT. On arrival in Cambridge Doriot met the President of Harvard, who convinced him that Harvard Business School was where he belonged, and Doriot promptly enrolled. By age 30, Doriot had become a full professor at HBS. Not bad for a decade’s work.

Doriot loved to teach and was one of HBS’s most popular professors. But he learned there can be too much of a good thing. The HBS Dean at the time (Wallace Donham) recognized Doriot’s talents in the classroom and asked him to take over courses where other professors had proved unpopular. In one passage, Ante writes:

The Dean…told Doroit that there was something amiss with the class on Business Policy, a required second-year, full-year course. Over the past few years, students had complained about several teachers, and had even taken to stamping their feet ‘during lectures they considered boring or irrelevant.’ Like he had done with the class on factory problems, Dean Donham told Doriot to take over the course and recast his Manufacturing lectures as a Business Policy course. Doriot accepted the assignment even though he did not want to teach a required course with an enormous enrollment. His boss was relying on him, and he had to come through.

In a subsequent letter to a friend, Doriot complained of the new arrangement:

I have started teaching. It takes an enormous amount of energy to teach 330 men. Trained teachers having for the past years made a mess of that course, I quite realize that the odds are against me. I shall do my best anyway even if I have to pass out doing it.

Channeling Larry’s post from last week, now that’s a lot of contact hours!

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