McDonough School of Business History
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business began in 1936 as an undergraduate program within the School of Foreign Service and today is a global leader in business education, business ethics, and social responsibility.
In September 1936, the Division of Business and Public Administration launched “to meet demands of government and industry…to facilitate a thorough and practical comprehension of business and government.” At that moment in history, the nation’s capital was becoming recognized as a business center as well as a political city. The new division offered a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree with majors in business management, banking, accounting, and public administration.
In 1957, Rev. Joseph Sebes, S.J, founded the School of Business Administration, believing that an understanding of commercial markets is essential to worldwide political stability. Among the faculty, there was a sense that what they were doing was experimental — even revolutionary — because the Jesuit community opposed a school focused on the idea of making money. Nonetheless, the school persevered, and by the 1980s, it was primed for a breakthrough.
The school launched its MBA program in 1981. Along with functional areas such as management, finance, marketing, and accounting, the coursework was infused with the four cornerstones on which the program was based: business/government relations, ethics, international business, and communications. At the time, integrating international business elements in each course was cutting edge. Just a decade after the first class graduated in 1983, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Georgetown MBA 22nd in the country.
The 1980s saw a period of continued growth, including the launch of the Executive Education division for custom and open enrollment programs. It also was a transformative time for research; not only did the school culture become more research-friendly, but resources became available to hire senior researchers in an increasingly competitive market.
In 1993, the school’s name changed again, to the Georgetown School of Business. It ended the decade with a celebration: In 1998, Robert Emmett McDonough, who graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 1949, gifted $30 million to the school, which thereafter became the Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business. The gift—the largest single donation to date in the university’s history—would be felt across the business school’s operations for years, providing additional, sustained resources for faculty recruitment.
Thus began two decades of extraordinary growth for the school, starting with the naming of George Daly as dean in 2005 and continuing with David A. Thomas and current dean Paul Almeida. Several new degree programs launched, including the Flex MBA, Executive Master’s in Leadership, Master of Science in Finance, Master of Arts in International Business and Policy, and the Master of Science in Management. In addition, several faculty-led centers, initiatives, and institutes took shape focused on such diverse issues as financial markets, entrepreneurship, real estate, and social enterprise.
The most visible legacy is the school’s current home, the $82.5 million, 179,000-square-foot Rafik B. Hariri Building, named for the late Lebanese prime minister and philanthropist whose son is a 1992 alumnus of the school. For the first time in its history, the entire school shares one home.
Today, McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,400 MBA and other graduate students, and 700 participants in executive custom programs. The faculty is now 160 strong, including approximately 110 who are full-time. And the McDonough School of Business enjoys a reputation for academic excellence manifested by distinctive and global programs, scholarship, and activities that leverage the rich fabric of Washington, D.C., reflect the Georgetown expertise and identity, and are guided by the university’s Jesuit values.