William R. King

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Title: Business Educator, Writer, Consultant
Location: Port Charlotte, Florida, United States

William R. King, PhD, Business Educator, Writer and Consultant, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements and leadership in management science and information systems.

Dr. King retired from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 with its most distinguished academic rank, “University Professor.”  He and his high-school sweetheart, Fay Eileen (Bickerton) King, are now “snowbirds” who reside at their Pittsburgh home in Fox Chapel in the summer and at their seaside home in Port Charlotte, Florida in the winter. He considers himself to be fortunate to have chosen a career in which he was excited to go to work each day to help thousands of graduate students to achieve better lives, to mentor well over 100 PhD graduates, to publish 19 books that appeared in various editions and translations and to author more than 300 research papers in the leading journals in Management Science (MS) and Information Systems (IS).

Throughout his career, he labored intensively to create “professional infrastructure,” such as research journals, annual conferences, professional societies and university programs, for the two relatively-young fields in which he worked. In addition to his academic and professional activities, he co-owned a consulting firm, Cleland-King Inc., through which he advised the management of business and public organizations all over the world. Of the many awards and recognitions that he received, perhaps the most interesting was a “King-is-a Liar” demonstration held in Red Square in Moscow after CIA analysts revealed that for his master’s thesis, Vladimir Putin plagiarized significant portions of one of his books.

Born on Dec. 24, 1938, to Dewey Clark and Cambria Edith (Jones) King and raised in the small town of Elrama in Southwestern Pennsylvania, he went on to Clairton High School, Pennsylvania State University and Case Institute of Technology to be internationally recognized as a researcher, author, mentor and leader. A turning point in his life came when he was 14 and starting tenth grade. He was called into the Clairton High Principal’s Office and told that a test had shown that he had the highest IQ of his 450 classmates. As a result, the Principal and his teachers had decided that his “merely-good” grades and sometimes-disruptive behavior would no longer be tolerated. His teacher, Helen D. Wilson, who would mentor him throughout high school, said, “You’re an outstanding person; please start acting like one!”

Because detention was mentioned as punishment for failure to change and he believed that might hinder his ability to see a new girlfriend, he transformed overnight from a “class clown” into an academic achiever and leader–roles that would be central to the rest of his life.  At the time, his description of his new persona was “…a guy with a steady girlfriend who effortlessly gets top grades.” He was chosen to speak for his graduating class at their 1956 Commencement Ceremony and then went on to study at Pennsylvania State University. There, he found that significantly more effort was required to be a Dean’s List engineering student than had been necessary to excel in high school, but because he had become accustomed to that role, he expended the requisite effort. He enrolled in Air Force ROTC with the goal of becoming a military pilot. As a junior, he was named “Outstanding Cadet.” That recognition, coupled with his performance in summer training in the swamps of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, earned him the highest cadet rank and position, giving him at the age of 20, command of 3,000 cadets on the drill field each week.

College summers were spent laying and repairing gas transmission lines for Equitable Gas Company for whom his father worked as a Pressure Station Operator. During his last college summer, when it was apparent that he would never again live with his parents, he rented ladders and scaffolds and spent evenings and weekends painting their house to thank them for raising him. He graduated in 1960 with a BS (with honors), was commissioned as an Air Force Second Lieutenant and was named a “Distinguished Military Graduate.”  He often speaks of his years at Penn State by saying, “I went there as a boy; I left there as a man.”

After a stint as an Industrial Engineer for Pittsburgh Steel Company, he enrolled in graduate school to pursue a master’s degree primarily because that would ensure more interesting non-flying assignments when he went on active military duty. At Case Institute of Technology (now part of Case Western Reserve University), he fell in love with academic research and the lifestyle of top research professors such as his mentor, Russell L. Ackoff, and his career goal changed. He received MS and PhD degrees and in 1964, Case named him as an Assistant Professor. He then served three years of active military duty at the same academic rank at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

After his military service, he accepted an Associate Professorship at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Business where he soon became the youngest person promoted to Full Professor in the modern history of the University. He remained there for 41 years with interruptions for temporary assignments at UCal-Berkeley, Singapore National University, Travelers Insurance’s Research Department and the staff of the US Senate Budget Committee, among others.

He was the Founding President of the Association for Information Systems, an international professional society that gave him its Leo Award for lifetime achievement in IS and President of the Institute of Management Sciences, a predecessor organization to the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS), which he was instrumental in creating through merger.  INFORMS named him as Inaugural Fellow–one of those who had the greatest impact on these closely-related fields in their first 50 years. He co-founded the annual International Conference on Information Systems which has existed for more than 40 years; twice he served as Conference Chair. He founded the annual America’s Conference on Information Systems and a prestigious journal, Information Systems Research and was Editor-in Chief of the Management Information Systems Quarterly–the oldest research journal in IS.

After arriving at Pitt, he reconstituted a moribund Business PhD program with the aid of a multi-million dollar grant from IBM. Soon, it was recognized as one of the best in the world. He also led the creation of a multi-school “MS in Telecommunications” degree and two innovations in the Katz Graduate School of Business– “Techno MBA” and MS-MBA “Double Degree” programs.

Especially in later years, most of his teaching was done in small research seminars and one-on-one sessions with doctoral students from all over the world. He devoted so much attention to doctoral students because he believed that through them he could influence their students, who he calls his “intellectual grandchildren,” and the offerings of the universities that would employ them. He is a licensed private pilot and motorcyclist and certified as a sailing captain and scuba diver. He jokes that he is also a CPA–a Certified Pesticide Applicator– a rating that he found it to be useful to attain when he purchased a farm with a large orchard.

In 2002, he faced the first of a number of major surgeries including two liver transplants. He returned to work with the same vigor that he had always displayed, but his wife and his long-time assistant noticed a change in his attitude and several years later, he retired from a position that he often said he would never leave. After his retirement, he published two autobiographical books–School Days: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century and School Days II. When requested, he provides advice to the current leaders of the professional entities that he created, to his former consulting clients and to university colleagues and administrators. He and his wife of 61 years have 3 children and 8 grandchildren.

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