Professor Alfred Edwards' Legacy Lives On
The venerable 'Dr. E' was the Ross School's ambassador for diversity.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Alfred L. Edwards, professor emeritus of business administration at the Ross School of Business, died Jan. 26 in his sleep. He was 86.
Affectionately known as "Dr. E," Edwards was a driving force in recruiting and mentoring minority students at the business school for more than 30 years. He was instrumental in leading the Ross School's effort to join the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the alliance among business schools that works to bring African American, Hispanic American and Native American managerial talent into MBA programs.
He was honored last year by the Black Business Students Association, which named its annual conference after him, and by the Black Business Alumni Association, which awarded its first scholarship in his name in 2006.
"Dr. Edwards' efforts made the Ross School a leader in diversity, recognizing its importance as an essential element of an ideal learning community and helping the school to achieve a leadership position not only in terms of representation, but also in the education and professional development of all of our students," said Gene Anderson, dean of degree programs at the Ross School. "The impact of his work has reached far beyond Ann Arbor as peer schools have sought to emulate our success."
Ross School Dean Robert Dolan said that it was a privilege to know Edwards.
"One of the personal highlights of my time here was getting to know Dr. E and having the chance to understand the legacy he created here and in the business world generally through his students," Dolan said. "While we are all obviously saddened by this death, I am happy that I can count myself among the many 'students' who owe him a great deal of gratitude for the life lessons he taught."
For many years, Edwards' office doubled as an unofficial "student lounge," where students would gather to discuss academic, professional and personal matters.
"There was a lot of student traffic (in his office) between classes or at the end of the day," said Ross School Professor David Wooten. "Dr. E knew more about the students' social lives than did many of their classmates."
Wooten, who was an MBA and Ph.D. student at the business school in the late 1980s and early '90s, even met his wife, Lynn, a fellow Ph.D. student and now a professor at Ross, in Edwards' office.
"I was in my second year and Lynn was a prospective student," Wooten said. "Dr. E's office was a popular meeting place. It was an 'unwritten rule' to bring prospective students to his office to hear his perspective and meet other members of the community."
Edwards joined the U-M business school in 1974 as a professor of business administration and director of the division of research. He received a bachelor's degree from Livingstone College in 1948, a master's from U-M in 1949 and a Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1958. After graduating, he taught at Michigan State University until 1963, when he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture as deputy assistant secretary before coming to U-M.
He is survived by his two children, Alfred and Beryl, and leaves behind a legion of admiring colleagues, former students and good friends who are deeply saddened by his death.
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