June 16, 2016
To commemorate the life and work of James F. Kane, dean and former professor of marketing, the Darla Moore School of Business officially dedicated the Kane Welcome Center in mid June.
When it came time to choose a name for the Welcome Center, many members of the Moore School faculty and staff felt there was no question as to whom it should be named for.
“I can’t think of a more fitting tribute,” said Jeanette Ross, executive assistant at the Moore School. She worked closely with Kane as secretary to the dean during his tenure.
“Jim Kane made everyone who came to the Moore School feel welcome,” she said.
Kane was 35 when he became dean of the then College of Business Administration in 1967. He was a “dynamic, driving force” on the faculty until his retirement in 2006 after serving 26 years as dean and 13 years as a professor of marketing. He left his position as dean in 1993, making his deanship one of the longest in the country.
According to former colleagues, he created an atmosphere of warmth throughout his tenure here as well as bringing the Moore School to the forefront of business higher education. He made everyone feel important and valued, regardless of what his or her official title was.
“Everybody felt like they were involved and a part of the school,” Ross said. “He went to great lengths to be sure everybody felt like that.”
Of his many achievements, one of the most revolutionary is the MBA-ETV program, now called the Professional MBA program. This program allows working professionals to earn their MBA through weekly classes over a 28-month period, enabling them to get their degree while working full-time. It was the first program of its kind when it was established in 1970 and today is ranked No. 1 in South Carolina. Initially, it was broadcast through a partnership with South Carolina ETV; today, the program is delivered via teleconferencing in seven locations throughout South Carolina and in Charlotte.
Kane was also adept at raising funds, evident in the funding and construction of two business buildings, the Close and Hipp buildings, added in 1973 and 1983, respectively. Together, the buildings cost $30 million, the equivalent of nearly $102 million today.
“He saw the need and he saw the way to do it,” said Bill Putnam, senior associate dean of development during Kane’s time at the school.
Shortly after the dedication of the first building, Kane helped establish the highly ranked Master of International Business Studies program, predecessor to the International MBA program, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The USC-Business Partnership Foundation is considered by many to be his most notable accomplishment, however. The formal relationship that it forged between the academic and business worlds was put in place to transition the business school from a “sleepy institution” to one of the top business schools in the country, a progression that is evident in the Moore School’s high rankings today.
Behind all of these achievements and projects was not just a hard-working man, but also a considerate man. According to Ross and Putnam, Kane’s coworkers became like a second family to him.
“He got out and about in the building and talked to everybody from the person sweeping the floor to the university president if he walked in the building,” Ross said.
As Ross and Putnam put it, Kane’s office doors were always open, and his coworkers felt free to come and go as they wished. While Kane had the final say in a decision, he was sure to include everyone in the process. This attitude, combined with his generosity and passion, earned him the respect of his colleagues as well as recognition elsewhere.
He was presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation in 1983. At the end of his deanship in 1993, he was given the highest civilian award in South Carolina, the Order of the Palmetto. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Darla Moore School of Business in 1996.
Kane, who earned a bachelor's in business administration and a master's in economics from Indiana State University and a doctorate in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis, died in June of 2007 at age 75.
“It’s appropriate that his name be a focal point in the school because he built the reputation of the business school,” Putnam said. “He brought national attention to the business school.”
By Madeleine Vath