George W. Bush Attends Harvard Business School

Beginning in the fall of 1973, Bush attended the Harvard Business School, where he earned an MBA. He is the only U.S. President to have earned an MBA.

President George W. Bush is the very first President to hold a Masters Degree in Business Administration. Even better (or worse, depending on your perspective), his MBA is from Harvard Business School, where postgraduate management training was invented in the early part of the last century, and which to many stands as a symbol of the good, the bad, and the ugly faces of modern management. Harvard MBAs indisputably lead more major corporations, receive higher starting salaries fresh out of school, and carry with them more �lan and glamour than the graduates of any rival business schools — facts which do not necessarily lead to admiration and love.

The comparatively small amount of attention paid by the political press to the President's Harvard MBA partially reflects a generalized ignorance of, and hostility toward, the degree itself. More importantly, acknowledging that he learned any valuable intellectual perspectives would contradict the storyline that young W was a party animal, who coasted through his elite education, scarcely cracking a book. In other words, as the left never tires of claiming, he is too 'stupid' to have picked up any tricks across the Charles River from Harvard Square.

This is patently incorrect. Having attended Harvard Business School at the same time as the President, graduating from the two—year program a year after he did, and then serving on its faculty after a year's interval spent writing a PhD thesis, I am intimately familiar with the rigors of the program at the time, and the minuscule degree of slack cut for even the most well—connected students, when their performance did not make the grade.

There is simply no way on earth that the son of the then—Ambassador to China (technically, head of the Beijing Liaison Office), or anyone else, could have coasted through Harvard Business School with a 'gentleman's C.' I never, ever heard of a case of an incompetent student being allowed to graduate, simply because a certain family was prominent. On the contrary, I did hear stories of well—born students having to leave prior to graduation. The academic standards were a point of considerable pride.

"Harvard gave me the tools and the vocabulary of the business world," George W. Bush wrote in his 1999 book A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House. He didn't take that line from a Harvard Business School brochure, but he could have. It makes you wonder what really happened at the B-school that Bush writes so, well, methodically about.

A lot has been made of the fact that the new President holds a Master's of Business Administration, rather than the law sheepskin that most national politicians claim. Some pundits have gone so far as to say that the lessons Bush learned in two years of case studies and financial analysis will make him a better leader -- just look at all the stories recently about how Bush is managing the White House as if he were a CEO. Curiously, though, in his 243-page book, Bush dedicates only five paragraphs to the time in his life when he "was fascinated by the case study method that Harvard used to teach."

Dubya fascinated by the Harvard case-study method? Come on, let's have a little more detail. What about burning the midnight oil? What about the toga parties? Did he kiss up to professors to get better grades? He'd go on to own the Texas Rangers baseball team, but could he find the time to play intramural softball?

Dip into the class of 1975 alumni roster, and there's something to be learned about Bush the B-school student. Lesson No. 1 is what a tight group this is, all still looking out for each other. But they tell some interesting tales nonetheless.