Outstanding Faculty Award 2020: Edward McLaughlin
Edward McLaughlin is the Interim David J. Nolan Dean and Robert G. Tobin Professor of Marketing Emeritus at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He served as director of Cornell’s Food Industry Management Program for more than 35 years and is now director of Cornell’s Food Executive Program. He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Before his academic appointment, he had extensive international experience, having spent four years in Africa with the Peace Corps, U.S. State Department, the United Nations and the World Bank. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1983.
Dean McLaughlin’s research interests include retailing strategies, the economics of retailing and produce marketing. His research appears routinely in academic journals including the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Journal of Retailing, and he is the author or co-author of three books. He has won many national awards for his research and his teaching among them, designation as a Weiss Presidential Fellow, Cornell University’s most prestigious award for distinguished teaching. Along with his colleague, Professor Gene German, he established the Food Marketing Fellows Program in 1991 and since then has overseen annual student trips to study food companies in international markets on four continents, nearly entirely supported by over $1 million raised in grants and industry funding. Among the portfolio of executive programs offered by the Food Industry Management Program, the Food Executive Program, that he directs, is widely known as the leading executive education program in the food industry and has been continually offered for 56 years, one of the oldest executive programs in any industry.
Dr. McLaughlin’s work has extended to more than 80 countries around the globe: he spent his first sabbatical in The Netherlands with Royal Dutch Ahold, one of the world’s largest supermarket companies, and in 1997 he developed the Ahold Retail Academy, an annual leadership program for its top executives in which he teaches and directs. He serves as adjunct professor of retailing at Nyenrode, The Netherlands School of Business, at IESEG, Graduate Management School in Lille, France and is the Business Program Faculty Director of Cornell’s partnership with the Vin University in Vietnam. He also serves as the dean of the Cornell-Japan Retail Management Program. Professor McLaughlin is on the board of directors of several food companies and on the Advisory Council of the Cornell Botanic Gardens where, for the last two years, he served as the vice chairperson. He was appointed by Cornell’s president to be the Cornell faculty representative to the NCAA, a position he held for more than 20 years and he has been academic advisor to the Cornell’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams for 25 years.
As I was staring at the ceiling in my office on my first day at Cornell, Olan Forker, department chairman, came in and asked if I’d like to know where to start. Hugely relieved, I said, “Yes…please!” “Well, I don’t know where to start,” he said, “that’s why we hired you. We expect you to identify the important issues and pursue them with a vengeance. That’s all.” Those few words pointed to Cornell’s tradition of freedom with responsibility that have guided me, and so many others throughout our careers. And I was given an appointment that, for me, was ideal: responsibilities in all three pillars of the land grant tradition, research, teaching and outreach/extension.
For a few years, I made myself crazy trying to satisfy the requirements of three separate areas but once I learned to find the complementarities, a sort of virtuous cycle took over: research results provided material for classes and outreach; in turn, outreach clientele, in my case from the food industry, lectured to classes, hired our students and provided data often unavailable to other public researchers. I owe a great deal to the many industry executives with whom I established close personal relationships. Their many contributions to our research and teaching programs have been of inestimable value to Cornell, our students and to me.
For most of my career, I taught large enrollment classes where it is hard to get to know individual students as much as I would have liked. Happily, I found many ways to interact with them outside the classroom, the best examples of which were serving as advisor for the Swimming and Diving team and leading students on international study tours as part of the Food Marketing Fellows Program, developed together with my colleague, Gene German. While hanging at the pool and on international trips, I learned more about what’s on students’ minds and what motivates them than I ever did in the classroom.
Through nearly four decades, I’ve been blessed by the generosity, encouragement and rich opportunities made available to me by my colleagues and Cornell University. I am ever so thankful. My biggest debt is to my wife, Annie, for support and love well beyond what I had the right to ask.