Dean H. Kropp, 1946-2003

Popular Olin School of Business professor dies April 11 after long battle with cancer

Dean H. Kropp, the Dan Broida Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and Co-Director of The Boeing Center for Technology, Information, and Manufacturing and Operations at Washington University, left an indelible impression on all he touched, including the thousands of students he taught since 1986 at the John M. Olin School of Business and his fellow Olin faculty and higher education colleagues.

Professor Kropp’s legacy at Washington University reached beyond the classroom in his work leading the business school’s “Total Quality Schools” program, helping city public school principals apply sound principles of management to improve their schools and working with countless companies in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. Professor Kropp dedicated his life to education.

He died April 11 at Barnes Hospital after a three-year battle with leukemia. He was 57 years old. Professor Kropp received a successful bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor found on an International Marrow Registry. The family would like to express their sincere appreciation and gratitude for the care provided Professor Kropp and his family by the Washington University physicians, the staff of the Siteman Cancer Center, and the caring health professionals of the Leukemia and Stem Cell Transplant unit at Barnes Hospital.

Professor Kropp was born and reared in University City and attended St. Louis Country Day School. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering with distinction, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in industrial engineering from Stanford University. As an undergraduate at Stanford, he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, and he won the F. E. Terman Engineering award.

In 1969, he was accepted into the United States Navy Officers Candidate School in Newport, R.I. He served as an engineer and engineering manager in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Division of Naval Reactors and on the staff of Admiral H. G. Rickover in Washington, D.C.

His career in higher education began while working on his doctorate at Stanford, where he became a teaching assistant and then an acting instructor. Before coming to Washington University, Professor Kropp taught at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and was a tenured professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Kropp won the coveted “Teacher of the Year” Award an unprecedented fifteen times in voting by MBA students at Washington University.

Stuart Greenbaum, Dean of the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University, said that Professor Kropp was an exceptional member of the business school faculty, and a distinguished teacher.

“For Dean Kropp, teaching was more than a profession; it was his calling, his passion, his chosen identity. To the very end, he would not be deprived of contact with his students for they sustained him, defined him and dignified him. Our profession had no greater zealot, and his legacy is secure,” Greenbaum said.

Panos Kouvelis, a colleague at Washington University’s Olin School of Business, served as Co-Director of the school’s Boeing Center with Professor Kropp.

“Dean was our mentor and teacher. He was a quality guru and exemplified the principles of quality management in his everyday scholarly activities. He was one of the main architects and influential forces in bringing into existence and carefully defining the role and mission of the Boeing Center, an educational and research partnership between the business school, Boeing and other corporations,” Kouvelis said. “We learned so much from him on what constitutes an effective executive teaching approach and on the importance and difficulties in building effective partnerships with the industrial sector. Our operations management group at Olin has lost a franchise player.”

Kropp was persuaded to join the Washington University business school faculty by former Dean Robert Virgil in 1986. Virgil said that his passing would leave a tremendous void in the entire community.

“Dean made a great contribution to the rebuilding and ascendancy of the Olin School,” Virgil said. “When he came here he was one of that group of key faculty who I looked to and who could always be counted on to do what was right. He made an enormous contribution to the school. Dean was as good a teacher of MBAs and executives as I ever saw. He had a magic way with students; he was like a Pied Piper. He loved to teach. That was his professional life and no one did it better.”

Professor Kropp lived in Clayton.

Burial will be private, and there will be no visitation. A memorial service will be at 4:00 p.m., Monday, April 21 in Graham Chapel on the campus of Washington University.

Among the survivors are his wife, Kristine Kropp, children Hobie, Caitlin, and Chandler Kropp, sister Nancy Kropp Grote of Pittsburgh, Penn., and many close friends including his hiking group.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis in support of the Total Quality Schools Program.

Former Olin Associate Dean and good friend Glenn Detrick said, “Teaching was a calling for Dean. He did it with energy, enthusiasm and dedication — and as evidenced by his teaching awards, he touched the lives of all his students.”