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The Growth of Business Education at Drexel

This essay is the eighth in the series Drexel students write about Drexel history

The Growth of Business Education at Drexel

by Iker Lambarri

The study of business at Drexel dates back to the Institute's founding in 1891. The “business department,” as it was then called, was far less structured and developed than the current LeBow College of Business. In order for this “business department” to become the “LeBow College of Business,” it had to undergo many changes over a long period of time.

In 1896, the business department was renamed the department of commerce and finance. In 1917, the secretarial school was introduced, and was for the first time allowed to offer degrees. These changes were the work of Hollis Godfrey, president of Drexel from 1913 to 1921, who focused on improving the school regardless of how unpopular his ideas were.

Kenneth Matheson followed President Godfrey and immediately in the winter of 1921 began alumni relations on a small scale. President Matheson made Co-op crucial to the business college, and the business college began to help students find employment. In 1922 President Matheson appointed W. R. Wagenseller director of the Secretarial School. In 1922-23 the school was renamed as the School of Business Administration, as men were reluctant to enroll in a secretarial school. With the new name, a four year course was integrated into the business college. Including to the four year course, in 1926, commerce and engineering where both introduced to the business curriculum.

 Secretarial school, accounting class Secretarial school, accounting class, circa 1915

In 1941, after having Matheson pursue the cooperative program, the business college offered the first cooperative course in the Institute. In 1945, the college was yet again renamed to “College of Business Administration” in an attempt to unite both genders under one name. In 1947, a business graduate program was introduced under the direction of Dean Kenneth Matheson, Jr., son of the former president. This new program provided “Graduate training for administrative positions in industry.” Thanks to this program students were able to find job opportunities much easier, as it involved many real life situations to improve potential. The first year this program was introduced people with no business background joined. This included mostly engineers and lawyers who were interested in creating their own business in their choice of major. Surprisingly in the second year students with business degrees enrolled, and were split between two programs: management and labor relations. The improvement and profitability of this program was easily seen as in the first year 40 students enrolled, and an increase to 60 in the second. In 1949, the first degree (MBA) was awarded in the business.

Drexel in 1952-1953 articulated its purposes, and began preparing for an MBA business in order to get their programs accredited. Many major fields in business were developed including business administration. The business college began perfecting retailing curricula, business teacher training, and secretarial studies in order to achieve accreditation for their MBA. Five new fields of curricula were proposed: Accounting, Finance Management, Marketing, and General Business, and in 1954, were introduced.

Over the years, it is clear that the Drexel Business College has undergone a great number of developments including their long deserved accreditation of their MBA program by the AACSB in 1977. From not being able to offer a degree at all until 1917, to having a PhD program in 1980 and it’s first PHD graduate in 1985, LeBow College of Business (gaining its name in 1999) is no longer the ‘Business department” it was back then. Just like its motto “Learn here lead anywhere" the LeBow College of Business is now a highly accredited college, and a crucial part of Drexel University.

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