The Consortium: Sterling Schoen’s ‘Baby’

Washington University management professor “stuck his neck out” to establish what has become the oldest and biggest business education diversity organization.

Sterling Schoen (2nd from right) was the founder of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management at Washington University in 1966. He founded the consortium for the mission of launching African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans into business careers. (Washington University Archives)
Sterling Schoen (2nd from right) was the founder of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management at Washington University in 1966. He founded the consortium with a mission of launching African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans into business careers. (Washington University Archives)

The late-Sterling H. Schoen, a Washington University business professor, was the undisputed powerhouse behind the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the business diversity organization he founded and served for 14 years.

After awaking to the possibility that a “consortium” of business schools could address racial inequity in corporate leadership, Schoen willed it into existence as organizer, fundraiser and recruiter — all while maintaining a modest teaching load.

Those who knew Schoen said he could be single-minded in his pursuit of the consortium’s mission to launch African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans into business careers.

“He was very clear about what he thought the vision ought to be for this cohort of people,” says Leroy Nunery, MBA ’79, an early consortium fellow who graduated a year before Schoen retired from the consortium. “You have to remember that at this time he was sticking his neck out. These companies were putting money into the organization to find talent that looked different from what they already had.”

Schoen’s wife, Patricia, walked side-by-side with Sterling throughout his consortium career; she always believed that the consortium’s concept was a perfect triangle of opportunity.

“Everyone got something out of it,” she said in early 2016, a few months before attending the consortium’s milestone 50th Orientation Program & Career Forum.

Companies who sponsored the consortium got early access to talented, multicultural MBA students. Business schools benefitted from help recruiting underrepresented minorities. And students got financial support toward an expensive MBA degree and a network of alumni and recruiters to support them.

“It was her husband’s baby,” says Peter J. Aranda III, MBA ’87, executive director and CEO of the consortium, who met with Pat Schoen once or twice a year. “But she was really interested in how we were growing enrollment and how we were adding schools.”

For years after Sterling Schoen died in 1999, Pat continued being involved with the consortium, keeping in touch with students, attending the Orientation Program & Career Forum (“OP”) and supporting the organization. At the 50th “OP” in St. Louis — her last before she passed away Feb. 26, 2017 — students lined up to introduce themselves and gave her a rousing ovation at the two events she attended.

“The consortium rightly is identified with Sterling,” says former Olin Dean Robert Virgil — the first university dean to chair the consortium’s board — in his eulogy for Pat Schoen. “He conceived it, he got it off the ground, he sweated and nurtured it over the years. But have no doubt: Pat was his full partner all the way.”

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