The Trulaske College of Business is commemorating 100 years of excellence this year with a series on the history of the school, founded in 1914. The college’s history, along with photos from the last century, will be available in a commemorative coffee table book following the celebration. Reserve your copy today.
Celebrating 100 high-impact years: Part 1
By David LaGesse
The past century has seen remarkable changes in business and economics. Those changes and broader cultural shifts weave their way through the history of the Trulaske College of Business, which kicks off a 100th anniversary celebration of its 1914 founding.
The School of Commerce was first housed in Swallow Hall (1921 School of Commerce Postcard - MU Archives)
Even the school’s start marks a milestone in business thinking. The study of economics and commerce was young, having been formalized only a decade or two earlier. The bold decision to open a School of Commerce spurred controversy as the university pulled a world-renown Economics Department from its home in the College of Arts and Science.
The university was responding to a maturing industrial age where companies demanded executives better schooled in economics, business theory and practical management. One of the country’s first accredited business schools, its fortunes have since tracked the wider business world. Early enrollment boomed, for example, alongside Roaring 20s stock prices before both crashed during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
But record enrollments returned as the Depression ended. Growth accelerated amid an economic boom in the 1950s and 1960s that was followed by a baby boom making its way to campus.
From 1969 to 1992, Beta Alpha Psi changes over two decades. (Savitar)
Women comprised a slowly growing slice of enrollment in the early decades, having first entered the school in 1917. About the same time, the school embraced a curriculum in public administration and social science that was particularly attractive to women.
Still, men dominated enrollment through the 1970s. Now women comprise around half of the college’s students, the Trulaske College of Business has a woman dean, and women no longer get voted “Best Secretary” as they did in the annual Commerce Day program decades ago. Only men, by the way, qualified for “Ideal Boss.”
Where students were once exclusively white, the college has diversified is student body to better reflect the make-up of the population. Outreach programs also took its teaching to cities and military bases – and then overseas to China and elsewhere. The overseas connections later drew students back to Columbia, where the Trulaske College of Business embraces a multicultural student body that reflects a global economy.
Dedicated faculty members helped get the business college started, including economists respected around the world. Economics later returned to Arts and Sciences and public administration became its own school, while the college grew around its core business courses and a pioneering accountancy department.
Leading faculty eventually shared the spotlight with students successful in business, including Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, real estate developer Stan Kroenke, Scottrade founder Rodger Riney, appliance manufacturer Robert Trulaske, and furniture manufacturer Harry Cornell, whose name graces the modern building that houses the Trulaske College of Business.
New computers in Middlebush Hall (Savitar)
Buildings themselves help tell the story of the college, which initially crowded into half an inherited hall with too little space, forcing business classes to scatter across the campus. The college finally got a new building in 1960 with the opening of Middlebush Hall, with more space for business classes as well as new digital computers in the basement.
Within years, growing demand for business education exceeded the capacity of Middlebush, whose look was unique on campus as it purposely mimicked a business-park style of the time. When it opened in 2002, the handsome Georgian architecture of Cornell Hall better reflected the timeless academic and business principles that continued guiding Trulaske College as it entered the 21st century, and will continue to shape the school’s own second century.
Today, the Trulaske College of Business is housed in Cornell Hall.
David LaGesse credits Econ 51 with John Kuhlman as helping launch his career as a business writer at publications including The Dallas Morning News and U.S. News & World Report. He now is a freelance journalist while also building his company, LaVidaCo Communications, and author of the Trulaske College of Business online historical series.