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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

PLU Business Department
Building Bridges

Developing excellence

For Pacific Lutheran, the idea of business has been there all along. More than a hundred years ago, in the infancy of what now is Pacific Lutheran University, stood Pacific Lutheran Academy and Business College. In a time where “business” was considered not much more than men taking pens to a ledger, the teaching of business started on the Pacific Lutheran campus. In the 1930s came the Depression, and the interruption of trust associated with the idea of business. For the years that followed at Pacific Lutheran, a school of business learning seemed like a dream deferred.

In 1959, Pacific Lutheran College was firmly planted as a well-respected liberal arts college, but something was missing.

President Seth Eastvold wanted a School of Business—with ideas, values, professional direction, and a sense of business and its role in the professional world. The challenge was even greater for PLC—teach busi-ness, without losing the liberal arts base and the Lutheran values of faith, service and truth.

Eastvold summoned Dwight Zulauf, a one-time PLC faculty mem-ber in economics and business ad-ministration, who was then in a doctoral program in Minnesota. Zulauf in turn asked his friend Gundar King—a doctoral candidate who had received his MBA from Stanford in 1958—to help him come up with a curriculum proposal that would start the new school.

What they came up with were the beginnings. They had convinced some highly regarded deans of prestigious business schools to aid them with advice and counsel in the building of the Pacific Lutheran program. They had an emphasis on economics, accounting, general business—and the now antiquated secretarial science. They had a strong foundation, but experienced the expected growing pains in the different subject areas.

“Some strands began to unravel, but others started to come together,” said King. While the serious strands of a business school started to come together at PLU, so did the examination of business education in America. In 1960, both the Ford and Carnegie Foundations did concentrated studies on business education— examining what was working, and what was not. PLU was in line with the study, which criticized the non-descript business education, encouraged the development of schools of business based around liberal arts (which at the time were rare), and favored a more well-rounded business education over subject concentrations. PLU business was at the right place at the right time with the right philosophy. Eastvold wanted an accredited school with an exceptional reputation, and it was the perfect time to make it happen. He entrusted the School of Business to Zulauf, who became the first dean.

There were many challenges in the beginning, from working toward accreditation to keeping the liberal arts foundation of Pacific Lutheran in tact—with 50 percent liberal arts classes, 50 percent business studies as an established requirement.

“My dream would have been the Association of New American Colleges,” Zulauf said, referring to the group of liberal arts colleges of which PLU is now a part. “More recent ideas have made our early dreams of integrating liberal arts and business more palatable and well-defined.”

In the first years, the school needed to show the development of programs and a building of faculty and student quality. Economics, accounting and general business started to take shape—each discipline had at least two expert faculty members, and students with a PLU diploma making their mark.

In 1966, King took over for Zulauf. Zulauf gives King, who ended up being the dean of the School for 25 years, a lot of credit for taking the school to the next level of achievement.

“Gundar really reached out to the community,” Zulauf said. “We made some friends in high places.” They brought in visiting professors from renowned schools like the University of California, Berkeley, and collaborated with others who provided operation and curriculum advice. King also started developing long-term relationships with local companies.

To help build toward accreditation of the master’s program, the School of Business found in the mid-’60s a niche that it has continued to develop today—the working student who wants a degree. King saw an opportunity to accelerate enrollment and serve an unmet demand.

Then came Boeing. Literally hundreds of Boeing engineers, most working as managers, wanted a MBA. Since Boeing supported its employees by paying 100 percent tuition, the School of Business got the critical mass of students it needed to further the program’s strength and reputation.

With over a dozen full-time faculty with expertise in the major business disciplines of marketing, human resources, finance and accounting, the School of Business received accreditation from the prestigious International Association for Management Education in 1971 (when they were the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. They still use the acronym, AACSB). At the time, it was the smallest business school with the smallest budget in the country given that distinction. The PLU School of Business, unlike many, was accredited on its first try—both with the undergraduate program, and then the MBA program in 1976.

The School saw its share of changes in the ’70s, most specifically the national desire to bring respect to accounting as an individual discipline. The PLU School of Business was one of only a few in the west to pursue the newly established standards for accounting programs. In 1982, PLU was one of the first 18 schools in the country to receive AACSB accreditation in accounting.

The 1980s saw a huge growth in interest in business schools—at one time in the ’80s, approximately one-third of PLU students were business majors. Gundar King retired in the early ’90s—leaving students ready for the global focus and technological challenges of business in the 1990s. Both King and Zulauf are both active at PLU, offering advice and expertise to today’s students and faculty.

“We’ve always been able to have a close relationship with our students and colleagues,” Zulauf said. “There is some goodness in being small.”

King adds, with a smile: “Like a diamond—small, hard and brilliant.”

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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