Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis, a USC Distinguished Professor and an internationally recognized authority on leadership, passed away in Los Angeles on July 31 at age 89. Bennis stood among the world’s leading experts on leadership. A prolific author, he wrote nearly 30 books on business administration, management theory and organizational leadership, including On Becoming A Leader, which is widely considered to be a seminal text. The majority of his works were published during his 35-year tenure at USC, including An Invented Life, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination. He served as an advisor to five United States presidents. “Professor Bennis was one of a rare and esteemed group of pioneers, able not only to anticipate the demands of a changing world, but also guide the direction of this change through his exceptional scholarship, teaching and mentoring,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias.Credited as the progenitor of some of the foundational principles of organizational management, he constantly sought to expand the boundaries of his field. Most recently, he had been working closely with USC President Emeritus Steven B. Sample on a book about the challenges of democratic organization and business administration. Bennis joined USC in 1979 as professor of business administration, and was the founding chairman of the USC Marshall’s Leadership Institute, which is dedicated to preparing future generations for the business and public sectors through real-world training. He held the Joseph A. DeBell Chair in Business Administration from 1982 to 1997 and received USC’s highest honor, the Presidential Medallion, in 2001. Born in New York City, Bennis grew up in Westwood, New Jersey. He served in World War II as an infantry officer, and was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Antioch College in 1947, and his PhD from MIT in 1955.  It was in Cambridge, while serving as a faculty member, that Bennis and colleagues first began articulating what would become a groundbreaking set of theories on management. He served as provost of the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1967 to 1971, and as president of the University of Cincinnati from 1971 to 1978. He is survived by his wife, Grace Gabe; his adult children Katherine, John, and Will; and grandchildren Luke and Anya Movius, Devin Bennis, and Daniel, Adam and Hanna Bennis; step-daughters Nina Freedman and Eden Steinberg; and step-grandchildren Nathan and Oliver Muz, and Eliana and Abraham Freedman.