Mendoza School of Business

MBA dream deferred

Author: Vincent L. “ Vinny” George (MBA '73)

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I am a member of the MBA class of 1969, the first MBA class at Notre Dame. Attending Notre Dame positively changed my life forever. My story is rather unique, and I would like to share it here briefly.

In the spring of 1967, I was finishing my undergraduate degree in accounting at St. Bonaventure University. While I had numerous job offers, I felt I wanted to broaden my business education. At the same time the war in Vietnam was hanging over my head, and I knew I would be a likely candidate to be drafted. One day while looking at the bulletin board outside of the accounting office, I noticed a flyer about a new MBA program at Notre Dame. Having been raised a devout Roman Catholic, attending Notre Dame would be a dream come true.

I called Notre Dame and spoke with Dean John Malone, the founder of Notre Dame’s MBA program. Dean Malone explained that while it was a new program, he was combining the best ideas from both Harvard and the University of Chicago MBA programs. ND’s curriculum would offer classes in business along with a case study class. At the time I could also obtain a deferment from the military by attending graduate school. So off I went to South Bend in the fall of 1967.

“I am the first one in the second row, far left,” writes Vincent George. “Jerry Claeys is in the front row, far right. Bob Dowdell is in the back row, far right, with the glasses. Of course, that’s Dean Malone in the front row, far left.

There were about fifty of us that began classes that fall. We came from varied backgrounds, both in education and work experience. The majority of us came directly from undergraduate school, but there were others that had several years of work experience and/or had served in the military. Many of these men became my lifelong friends. All fifty of us took the same classes that entire year. We also socialized together frequently outside of the classroom.

Dean Malone was our leader, our mentor and our professor for the case study class. He developed a personal relationship with every person in our class and was extremely proud of everyone. In a way he became like a father figure as he cared so deeply for all of us.

But the war in Vietnam raged on. We lost two or three men to the draft or Army reserves before the year was out. I think there were forty six of us that went home that summer of 1968.

While I fully intended to return for the second year, by the time I went home to Western New York in June 1968, I had a draft notice waiting for me. I passed a physical and was about to be drafted. As an alternative I could obtain a deferment to work with my father on our family dairy farm. I spent the next four years working with him running our dairy business, which was appropriately called George’s Dairy.

During this time I kept in touch with Dean Malone. He kept encouraging me to come back to Notre Dame whenever I chose. He assured me there would always be a slot for me. He felt I had great potential in the business world, and he clearly wanted me back in the MBA program as soon as I could.

I returned to Notre Dame in the fall of 1972. It was a challenge for me, after not studying the previous four years, to return to a routine of textbooks and exams. But the good Lord must have wanted me there because several of our case studies that fall were on farm implement companies like John Deere, International Harvester and Massey Ferguson. These were all companies that I knew well from my life on our farm. Dean Malone taught the case study class that fall, and I recall having several discussions with him about the farm implement business. Dean Malone was so pleased I had returned to finish my degree.

Many of the great friends that I made in the fall of 1967 also encouraged me upon my return to Notre Dame. John Knittel, Joe Cavato and Bernie Bieg in particular gave me great encouragement to finish my degree.

While I graduated with the MBA class of 1973, I always more closely identified with the 1969 MBA class. We were all great friends, and we all went through so much together to help shape the MBA program for future students. To this day I am honored and humbled to hold a degree from Notre Dame, and consider it one of my life‘s greatest achievements.

Topics: MBA