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Harvard. Economics Ph.D. alumnus Homer Bews Vanderblue, 1915


Homer Bews Vanderblue (Harvard Ph.D., 1915) won his academic spurs for work on the economics of railroads. He went on to become the Dean of the School of Commerce at Northwestern. Before leaving for Northwestern in 1939 he donated his personal collection of Adam Smith materials to the Harvard Business School’s Baker Library.


Homer Bews Vanderblue’s Ph.D. exams at Harvard

General Examination in Economics, Monday, May 11, 1914.
Committee: Professors Taussig (chairman), Turner, Sprague, Day, and Dr. Copeland.
Academic History: Northwestern University, 1907-12; Harvard Graduate School, 1912—. A.B., Northwestern, 1911; A.M. ibid., 1912. Assistant in Economics, Harvard, 1913—.
General Subjects: 1. Economic Theory and its History. 2. Statistics. 3. History of American Institutions since 1789. 4. Economic History since 1750. 5. Commercial Organization. 6. Transportation.
Special Subject: Transportation.
Thesis Subject: “Railroad Valuation.” (With Professor F. W. Taussig and Mr. E. J. Rich.)

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Examinations for the Ph.D. (HUC 7000.70), Folder “Examinations for the Ph.D., 1913-14”.

Note:  Thesis published as Railroad Valuation, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917.  It was awarded second prize ($500) in Class A of the Hart, Schaffner & Marx competition.


Death notice from Harvard College President’s Annual Report

Homer Bews Vanderblue, Honorary Curator of Early Economic Literature in the Baker Library, died on July 12, 1952, in his sixty-fourth year. His first appointment at the University was as Assistant in Economics and Proctor in 1913-14. He became Instructor in Economics in 1914-15. Until 1922, he taught at Northwestern University as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Transportation. From 1922 until his resignation in 1929, he was Professor of Business Economics, and from 1936 until his death he filled the post of Honorary Curator of Early Economic Literature in the Baker Library. He returned to Northwestern as Professor of Business Economics and Dean of the School of Commerce (1939-49).


Source: Harvard University. Report of the President of Harvard College and reports of departments, 1951-52, pp. 49-50.


Vanderblue as Head of Northwestern’s School of Commerce

Homer Vanderblue becomes the fifth dean of the School of Commerce. Vanderblue proves to be a successful academic and administrative leader, keeping the school functioning during the resource shortages associated with World War II when most business schools curtailed their operations or suspended instruction entirely.

Under Dean Vanderblue, the school shifts away from technical specialization toward a broader managerial education. To accomplish this shift—which would take years to complete—Vanderblue introduces the “rotating chairs” system for academic department heads, thus sidestepping department rigidity. He recruits faculty sympathetic to his goals and ideals of “liberal business education.”

Vanderblue also works to bridge the fiscal gap between what the school generates for the university and what it earns to meet its expenses. Among other things, Vanderblue proposes raising faculty salaries, which had declined during the depression, and constructing new buildings in Evanston and Chicago. Vanderblue admits that to retain the best faculty, he has to draw upon loyalty to Northwestern by “playing on the ‘I love Evanston’ key” to retain the best senior professors, something he is able to do in many cases.

Dean Vanderblue retires due to ill health in 1949.


Source: Northwestern University, Webpage: “Kellogg School History: 1938-1947.”


Adam Smith—Vanderblue Collection

Baker Library has brought together one of the most comprehensive collections of the works of Adam Smith in the world, with a special focus on The Wealth of Nations. This collection contains virtually all published editions in English of this work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Essays on Philosophical Subjects as well as translations into Chinese, French, Russian, and numerous other languages. Further, it holds many of Smith’s other published materials, manuscript letters, and several volumes from Smith’s own library. Harvard Business School Professor Homer B. Vanderblue donated the collection in 1939.



Image Source: Homer Bews Vanderblue from the 1946 volume of the Northwestern University yearbook Syllabus.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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