Carnegie Mellon University

James G. March

October 02, 2018

James G. March, Founding Faculty Member of Carnegie Mellon University’s Graduate School of Industrial Management and Expert of Organizational Behavior, Dies at Age 90

James G. March, an internationally renowned pioneer of organization and management theory, and Stanford University’s Jack Steele Parker Professor of International Management Emeritus, died on September 27, 2018. He was 90 years old.

James G. March's career, which spanned six decades and produced over 180 journal articles and books, began in 1953 as an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Industrial Administration at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Institute of Technology (today the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University).

In his 11 years at Carnegie Mellon, March helped shape the development of Carnegie Mellon University's new Graduate School of Industrial Administration and is broadly recognized for his seminal contributions to behavioral theories of organizations.

While at GSIA, March, along with Herb Simon (who later won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on decision making) and Richard Cyert, founded what was to become known as the Carnegie School, and together wrote extensively about matters that are key to understanding how organizations make decisions, learn, adapt, and shape the collective efforts of their members.

In 1958, March and Herb Simon, published Organizations, a book that fundamentally influenced how scholars thought about organizations. In 1963, Richard M. Cyert and March built on this foundation in their influential book, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm.

“Jim was one of the pioneering faculty members of GSIA,” says Bob Dammon, Dean of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. “His research on organizations was highly influential and set the stage for several subsequent developments in organization and management theory.”

From an August 1, 2017 interview published in the Journal of Organization Design March observed, “When I was a student, the principal instruments available to extend human intelligence were the printing press and the slide rule. Both replaced earlier forms of memory and calculation and made major leaps in human capabilities possible. The computer and the software implementations of its capabilities have produced and portend major additional changes. One does not have to wander too far into science fiction to imagine a confrontation between these instruments of intellectual ambition, on the one hand, and core human values and routines of life as they have developed over 3000 years, on the other. Organizations are likely to be major arenas for that confrontation and major factors in its outcomes.”

March received honorary doctorates and honorary professorships from several European and North American universities and was elected to membership in the National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the National Academy of Education, as well as several overseas academies.

He received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University in 1968, the Academy of Management Award for Scholarly Contributions to Management in 1984, the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching from Stanford University in 1995, the John Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association in 1997, the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Academy of Management in 1999, the Viipuri Award from the Viipuri Society in 2004, the Aaron Wildavsky Award from the Public Policy Society in 2004, and the Herbert Simon Award from Laslo Raik College (Budapest) in 2005. In 1995 he was made a Knight First Class in the Royal Norwegian (Olav V) Order of Merit, and in 1999 he was made a Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland.

He was a member of the National Science Board (1969-1974) and the National Council on Educational Research (1975-1978), as well as a member or chair of a number of committees for the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences and the Social Science Research Council. From 1984 to 1994 he was a member, and from 1991 to 1993 Chair, of the Board of Trustees of the Russell Sage Foundation. He had also been a member of the Board of Directors of Sun Hydraulics Corporation (1989-1992 and 1996-2000), the Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research (1988-1999), and Wally Industries (1996-2001). From 1994 to 2001 he was a member of the Board of the Citigroup Behavioral Sciences Research Council (Chair 1994 to 2000).

Born in 1928, he received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1953. He served as faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, University of California, Irvine, and Stanford University. 

He leaves behind four children and 16 grandchildren.