Harvard Business School professor emeritus Paul A. Vatter, remembered by his former colleagues as a gifted teacher to both his students and coworkers over his nearly 40-year career at the Business School, died Jan. 4 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 90.
Vatter, who taught a managerial economics course that centered on statistical analysis and decision-making while at Harvard, is best remembered for explaining challenging concepts in an understandable and engaging way.
“He was the department’s best teacher and was the only one able to teach our material to executives with any success,” said Business School professor David E. Bell.
After earning a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947 and 1954, respectively, Vatter joined Penn’s department of economic and social statistics. Once he arrived Harvard in 1958, he served as an assistant dean of the Business School until 1962, chaired its doctoral program from 1967 to 1970, and directed executive education and corporate relations from 1987 to 1988. He retired in 1995.
Colleagues and students affirmed the impact Vatter made in his administrative and professorial roles. Business administration professor emeritus Steven C. Wheelwright recalled that as a new faculty member, he would sit in on Vatter’s classes to learn his teaching methods.
“Paul was always happy and positive and clearly loved teaching and the work he was doing with faculty and students,” Wheelwright said.
Although Vatter held numerous leadership positions, Bell said that Vatter’s friendliness and generosity led him to consider Vatter a friend despite their 25-year age difference.
“He was always approachable, always had a smile on his face, always willing to have a chat,” Bell said.
Wheelwright echoed the sentiment that Vatter consistently offered assistance to students and faculty regardless of his own workload.
“Paul was always willing to take on additional assignments and go the extra mile whenever it was needed,” Wheelwright said.
Vatter is survived by his daughter, Katherine Foucault of Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and five grandchildren, according to the Business School website.
—Staff writer Jiwon Joung can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.