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Queen’s remembers John Gordon

The Queen’s community is remembering John R.M. Gordon, a professor emeritus and former dean of the Smith School of Business, who died Monday, April 27. He was 85.

John R. M. Gordon
John R. M. Gordon

Dr. Gordon led Smith School of Business from 1978 to 1988, during which time he revived Smith’s Advisory Council, made up of CEOs and top leaders from business and government to advise the school. He also laid the groundwork for what would become the Executive MBA programs. 

He made relationships with the wider business community a priority (seeing it as a win-win for business and education) and encouraged students inside the classroom and beyond. Two longstanding institutions run by the Commerce Society started under Gordon: QBET (Queen’s Conference on the Business Environment Today) and ICBC (the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition).

A lifelong believer in the power of education, Gordon insisted that he continue to teach a regular Commerce and MBA class while he served as dean. In a 1987 interview, he explained why: “First, I enjoy teaching. Second, it’s like being out on the factory floor. If you’re running a company and never go out on the factory floor, then you really don’t know what your organization is all about. Students can give you a good indication of what is going on in the school, because they are its lifeblood.”

After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, he went to work for the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. An interest in teaching then took him to Royal Military College in Kingston as a lecturer.

While teaching at RMC full-time, he also pursued his MBA part-time at Smith.

After earning his MBA, he headed to MIT in Boston for his PhD. Then it was on to Western University to teach. By the early 1970s, Gordon was in Switzerland teaching at IMEDE (now called IMD). He helped to establish that school’s MBA program.

Returning to Smith in 1975, Dr. Gordon became a favourite among students and a mentor and inspiration to his peers.

After stepping down as dean, Dr. Gordon continued to teach at Smith and do research. He was named a professor emeritus and inducted intomith  the Faculty Hall of Fame at Smith. Gordon retired in 2005 but continued to teach for several years after.

In retirement, he stayed involved in the Kingston business community. He and a group of friends started an organization called RELIKS (Retired Executives Living in Kingston) to champion and mentor local entrepreneurs. And he conceived the Kingston Ventures Study Tour to expose students to business opportunities in Kingston.

A reception in commemoration for John Gordon will be held at a later date. 

In memory of John Gordon, donations can be made to the Dean’s Innovation Fund at Smith School of Business.

A full obituary is available on the Smith School of Business website.