Drucker-author, scholar and prophet-dead at 95

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john quelch, professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, starts every lecture on marketing with a famous Peter Drucker quote: "The purpose of a business is to acquire and retain a customer."

"My other favorite," said Mr. Quelch, "is `Strategy is a sense of direction around which to improvise."'

Mr. Quelch is one of scores of business and marketing leaders influenced by the father of modern management theory who died Nov. 11 of natural causes at age 95. Over his 75-year career as a writer, consultant and teacher, Mr. Drucker predicted the advent of the knowledge worker and discoursed on topics such as entrepreneurship, decentralization and empowerment.

A prolific writer, he penned 39 books, was a magazine contributor and was a columnist for The Wall Street Journal for two decades beginning in 1975, a period he described as his most productive. Among his most famous books are "The End of Economic Man" (1939), lauded by Winston Churchill, and "Concept of the Corporation," his 1946 book on General Motors Corp. that introduced the concept of replacing "command and control" management style with decentralization and worker responsibility.

More recently, he released "The Daily Drucker" in 2004 and co-authored his final book, "The Effective Executive In Action," with Joseph A. Maciariello, due in January.

Born on Nov. 19, 1909, to a wealthy and educated family in Vienna, Mr. Drucker studied in Austria and England. He earned a doctorate in 1931 from Frankfurt University while a financial reporter for Frankfurter General Anzeiger in Frankfurt, Germany.

He spent 21 years as a professor of management at New York University's graduate business school. In 1971, he bypassed the nation's most prestigious business schools and joined Claremont Graduate University as a professor of social sciences and management. He remained there until 2002, yet he never truly retired, and he continued to write and consult until his death.

medal of freedom

He also consulted with corporations, governments and nonprofit organizations, and in 2002 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

Mr. Drucker was admired and often quoted by business school professors and consultants. "He was my hero and role model," said David Aaker, professor of marketing and public policy at University of California, Berkeley. "His body of work is so substantial and so important that we're going to benefit from that for a long time."

Described by associates as a Renaissance man who fancied the arts and sciences as well as literature, economics, sociology, political science and psychology, he viewed organizations as living beings rather than machines.

"Drucker was, first and foremost, a synthetic thinker who drew from a wide range of disciplines as well as his own background as a journalist to explain not just how business worked, but how people worked," said Randall Rothenberg, senior director-intellectual capital at Booz Allen Hamilton. "Every major breakthrough business book-from `In Search of Excellence' to `Good to Great'-derives from Peter Drucker's fundamental premise: people matter."

Known as a keen observer, Mr. Drucker focused on the unnoticed, ignored and unsaid as key insights into his thinking. Peter Sealey, marketing professor at Berkeley Center for Marketing & Technology and a former Coca-Cola Co. chief marketing officer, studied under Mr. Drucker for eight years and earned his Ph.D. from Claremont. "He is the greatest management thinker of the 20th century," he said. "Nobody is even a close second."

He said Mr. Drucker gave him the greatest definition of Coca-Cola he's ever heard: "Coke is an advertiser with tremendous access to a distribution system." Noted Mr. Sealey, "Nobody's ever said it clearer."

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