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A visibly moved Charles F. Knight, chairman and chief executive officer of Emerson Electric Co., took to the podium March 24 at groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center and gave voice to the excitement and confidence pervading the John M. Olin School of Business as it moves into the future with new capabilities for executive training programs.
Admitting that he was a "little overwhelmed" by the emotion of the occasion, Knight put aside his prepared remarks and spoke from the heart. "We have enormous momentum going," he said of the business school. He said the new center will have a major impact on faculty and programs, enhancing the school's reputation and its recruitment of students and faculty.
"This is a competitive differentiator," he told the audience of 500 business leaders, trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. "Eight of the other really good business schools have these kinds of facilities. Of the top 25, the others don't. This is a big step and really separates us from the pack. That's what this is all about."
The five-story building on the north side of the Hilltop Campus will house educational programs for mid- through upper-level executives. Already the business school offers three executive degree programs -- the executive master of business administration; the executive master of manufacturing management, offered jointly with the School of Engineering and Applied Science; and the executive MBA in health services management, developed in collaboration with the School of Medicine.
The business school's executive degree programs are ranked No. 13 by U.S. News and World Report.
The 135,000-square-foot building will provide an integrated residential learning center, including classrooms, group study rooms, dining facilities, lounges and 66 rooms for overnight lodging. Additionally, the Weston Career Resources Center, the business school's career-planning resource for undergraduates, graduates and alumni, will have space in the center, along with departmental offices for Executive Programs and External Relations.
The cost is estimated at $44 million, and the building should be available for occupancy early in 2001. The University has received building permits and issued bid packets. Architects for the project are Kallman, McKinnell & Wood Architects of Boston, the firm that designed Simon, McDonnell and Alvin Goldfarb halls on campus.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton spoke of the center's importance to people -- "the people who will study here and those in our community who will flourish as a consequence of the programs we develop. The Executive Education Center," he said, "will be a great asset to the John M. Olin School of Business and for Washington University. We see many ways that the John M. Olin School of Business can partner with other parts of the University, and these new facilities will make possible a large number of new programs that will engage us as a community."
Expressing the University's deep gratitude to Knight, Wrighton said: "We're pleased to be breaking ground literally and figuratively on the building for executive education, and it's especially fitting that it be named for Charles Knight, one of America's stellar business leaders, who has provided extensive leadership over many years to the University and the Olin School."
Knight is regularly ranked as one of the nation's most effective business executives, and Emerson's management practices are widely imitated.
Knight has served the University as trustee and has been involved in major fund-raising efforts. His support for the business school is evident in the Emerson Electric Classroom, the Charles F. Knight Scholars program, the Emerson Electric Co. Professorship in Manufacturing Management and the Emerson Electric Fellows, a project supporting the international exchange of best practices in business education.
Dean Stuart I. Greenbaum stressed the increasing importance of executive education and the school's commitment to it. "Olin is a serious player in the executive education market," he told the audience, "and this new center will give us additional potential for growth and recognition. It signals our commitment to lifelong learning and continuous dialogue with our corporate constituents."