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 2
By David LaGesse
Cartoon announcing the opening of the School of Commerce (Savitar, 1917)
The whiff of a distant scandal, an ambitious University of Missouri president and a pair of maverick geniuses helped thrust Columbia, Mo. to the middle of modern economic studies in 1910.
Late that year, renowned author Thorstein Veblen accepted a teaching position at Mizzou. He followed a former student, Herbert Davenport, who had arrived in Columbia in 1908 to lead the economics department.
Colleagues considered the two men brilliant if eccentric. Veblen rose to prominence with an 1899 book that described a new leisure class using “conspicuous consumption” to prove its status. Davenport earned his fame while at Mizzou in 1913 with a groundbreaking book that focused on entrepreneurs.
Veblen’s womanizing had worn out his welcome at Stanford University. "What is one to do when a woman moves in on you?" Veblen was said to ask.
Veblen cleaned up his act enough to earn an offer from Mizzou president A. Ross Hill. Hill had become president at the young age of 38, and the same year hired Davenport with an eye on starting a business school.
With two pillars of economic theory on staff, the School of Commerce launched in early 1914 as one of the nation’s first university-based business schools.
Early School of Commerce faculty, including Herbert Davenport (center, front) and Thorstein Veblen to his right (MU Archives).
The nine faculty members decided they would combine business theory with its practical application. Fifteen students enrolled in the college, which required two years of broader academic work – much like the journalism school started in 1908 also under Hill.
The business school added public administration courses in 1917 and grew rapidly in the next decade. Davenport and Veblen, however, had moved on by 1918.
Both largely faded in prominence but left a lasting legacy in their economic theories, and in what is now the Trulaske College of Business.
David LaGesse credits Econ 51 with John Kuhlman at the University of Missouri 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.