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November 14, 2009

A Message from Dean of The Wharton School, Tom Robertson about Ackoff Memorial Service

Dear Colleagues,
As many of you already know, Penn lost a great citizen when Russell L. Ackoff passed away on October 29, 2009 at the age of 90. Russ was the Anheuser Busch Professor Emeritus of Management Science, a transformative scholar dubbed the “father of operations research,” and an admired colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend. He had been on the Wharton faculty from 1964 until he retired in 1986, although he continued to be involved with programs in the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Wharton.
The Penn community will honor Russ’s legacy on February 12, 2010, from 2 to 3 p.m. in Ambani Auditorium, Jon M. Huntsman Hall. This date was selected by his family as it would have been his 91st birthday. There will be a reception immediately following in Huntsman Hall’s Patty and Jay H. Baker Forum. All are invited to attend.
The Ackoff family has requested that all charitable gifts in memory of Russ be directed to the Russell L. Ackoff Systems Thinking Library at Penn. Your tax-deductible contribution, payable to the "Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania," can be mailed to:
Organizational Dynamics
School of Arts and Sciences
Office of External Affairs
3615 Market Street, Floor 2Philadelphia, PA 19104-6318
Donations may also be made online at https://medley.isc-seo.upenn.edu/giving/jsp/fast.do?program=SAS&fund=843142
The Penn Program in Organizational Dynamics also is collecting memories of Russ. If you would like to add your own, please email them to [email protected] with “Russ Ackoff” in the subject.
Thomas S. Robertson
The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania
3620 Locust Walk
1000 Steinberg Hall-Dietrich Hall
Philadelphia, PA  19104-6364

Posted by ACASA on November 14, 2009 at 03:52 PM | Permalink


I write a column for OR/MS Today, the news magazine of INFORMS. INFORMS is the professional society for OR, Russ' primary field. In December 2009, I devoted my column to remembrances of Russ, especially his three declarations, at approximately ten-year intervals, that OR was a dying field because it had gotten too narrowly focused and because too many OR analysts valued mathematical sophistication more than solving the client's problem. I had gotten the chance to ask him once, "How much faith would you have in a doctor who pronounced the same patient dead three times, at ten-year intervals?" He laughed and responded, with a wry smile, "Let me let you in on a little secret. The more the theoreticians dislike me, the more my clients love me." Once again he showed that he really knew what he was doing.

In the column I also mentioned R.E.D. "Gene" Woolsey, a giant of the field in his own right. Gene, who is not generally known for excessive modesty, thanked me profusely, explaining, "I'm deeply honored and humbled to be mentioned in the same column as Russ Ackoff. He, Churchman and Arnoff were the three giants I always looked up to, the true fathers of the field."

Posted by: Doug Samuelson at Feb 11, 2010 10:03:18 PM

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