In memoriam James G. March

1928–2018


It is with immense sadness that we inform you of the death of Jim March who passed away on September 27, 2018.
 
For EGOS – and for the entire organizational research community – Jim will always remain not only a scholar of great originality, influence, and inspiration, but also a flame and a poet on an incessant quest for joy and beauty.
Our thoughts are with his family and dear ones.
 
A Book of Condolences has been opened for those who would like to leave their thoughts of remembrance.
 
The EGOS Board


Book of Condolences

:
2018-12-04 20:36
Justine Rosenheck Lassoff
I graduated from Stanford with a BA in 1988, and had the pleasure of meeting Professor James March. My friends, Jill, Cathy and I would go to his "office hours" frequently. He was an amazing person, not only smart and accomplished, but interested in learning, life, creativity and fun. He was an inspiration to us. In our senior year, at our request, he became an advisor to our film project, a short black and white piece on 16 mm. Jim was one of the top teachers I met at Stanford and know he impacted so many lives.
2018-11-23 11:34
Trang Vu, PhD student, Bournemouth University
I have never met Professor Jim March. I have only read his arguments on his publications.

But I truly and deeply feel lost when I heard Jim has passed away. Your spirit and wonderful intelligence will be always around us and lead us through the tunnel to gain profound understanding of organisational behaviour and human choice science. We, new generation scholars, will not let your work stay the same. They will be expanded and continued to develop just like you are still around us.

Your name will always be embroidered in our hearts.
2018-11-20 16:59
Patricia Vidal, Brazil
I was able to watch two of his memorable speeches. Prof. March was kind and transmitted a tranquility that we rarely find in academia. God bless him and his family.
2018-11-20 05:56
Sasanka Sekhar Chanda (IIM Indore)
Prof. March taught Prof. Khandwala, who, in turn taught my PhD Advisor, Prof. Sougata Ray. This is how I introduced myself over email to Prof. March, in 2014. I was finding it difficult to replicate the results of March (1991 - exploration and exploitation through organizational learning) and sought his computer code. Next day I got the response from Prof. March, enclosing his computer code. I had one more exchange a month later, having worked out the differences between the computer code and the publication text. I can say only what I wrote to him then: I see tremendous potential to make further research contributions by extensions of the model. To me, it is one of the very few algorithms where the emergence of group-level characteristics, distinct from, and not aggregate of individual characteristics, can be studied, particularly in the management discipline.

To Prof. March, I say - Sir, you have merely discarded your mortal body. You live in our hearts and in our research. We shall strive our outmost to live your ideals.

Indore, 20th November, 2018
2018-11-11 09:44
Marleen Huysman
Jim March was a true inspirator for so many of us, especially for those who were lucky to be at Scancor at the time Jim was around. Although being Dutch, Jim offered me a visiting position, “you look very Scandinavian too me, so be my guest”. I enjoyed every single moment of it, the wines on Fridays, the funny comments he could make, the potluck parties at his house, the chats about research. Jim was always most enthusiastic when the fun was mingled with serious thought-provoking theorizing. His classes on organizational behavior with the bingo lottery system definitely defined my research agenda for the rest of my career. The setting was common: read 5 papers thoroughly and discuss these in class (maybe less common was the use of the lottery wheel) but it was the content that made the class unforgettable. The papers seemed to be a complete random selection. E.g. what has Machiavelli to do with automation or population ecology with janitors? During class, the group magically wove the very diverse ideas into a new red threat, while Jim acted as the peripheral facilitator, at least this is what he wanted us to think of him.
I am trying to copy Jim’s style of leading academics since I became ‘leader’ of a research group myself. Obviously, I will never succeed, but being inspired to do so, is already such a great gift.
2018-11-07 13:04
Piotr Makowski (University of Warsaw)
I am deeply saddened by the loss. Jim's attitude towards scholars from my country will always be remembered.
2018-10-17 17:37
David Klahr
I first met Jim March in 1962, when I entered the Masters program in the graduate business school at Carnegie Mellon University. (Although at that time the university was called “Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT) and the business school was known as the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA). We read books like Organizations (March & Simon) and draft versions of The Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Cyert and March). Coming from an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, I was staggered by the lucidity and insightfulness of both of Jim’s foundational contributions. The fact that Jim March and Herb Simon were both on the faculty of a graduate school that, at the time only admitted about 25 new Masters students each year meant that the faculty were highly accessible to students. And Jim had a profound impact on the direction of my career and my life in a moment that I’m sure he wouldn’t even remember, but which I always will.

Here’s the story: after several months in the Masters program, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to get that MS degree and then go out into the business world. Instead I wanted to pursue the kind of ideas and challenges that Jim March and Herb Simon worked on. And to do that, I had to gain entry into the PhD program. With some trepidation, I approached Jim in the corridor one day and announced that I didn’t like the MS program much, but instead wanted to know how I could apply for the PhD program. (I felt comfortable asking him because I had already taken a course from him, and as I mentioned, classes were rather small in those days.) He responded to my query by saying: “Hmmm, follow me” , and he led me into the administrative office where all of he student records were kept (on paper of course: no office computers in 1962). He opened the file cabinet containing my transcript to date (I had only been at GSIA for a semester and a half at that point), pulled out my file, glanced at it for a minute or so, and then walked it over to the PhD file cabinet and told me “Klahr, you are now in the PhD program”. In that brief moment Jim March profoundly changed my professional path and the rest of my life. (He also offered me a job several years later when he became Dean at the newly formed Irvine campus of the California system (which I declined), I did not stay in touch much with him over the years, but he did send me a copy of his wonderfully erotic book of poetry and we interacted a bit on a memorial volume for Herb Simon. But I am forever indebted to him for his quirky and generous admissions decision, and for expanding my intellectual horizons. The giants of that era were Dick Cyert, Herb Simon, and Jim March. And now they are all gone.
2018-10-15 18:40
Howard Aldrich
I am not surprised that Jim asked his family not to hold a memorial service. One of the few times I ever saw him visibly angry was when someone mentioned to him that another famous academic (who shall go nameless) had written an autobiography, giving details of his lifetime achievements. Raising his voice, Jim made it clear that he thought such lack of humility was unbecoming of a scholar and that he would never do such a thing. As the tributes from his family and friends make clear, there was no need for Jim to write such a treatise – – his contributions will live forever in our hearts.
2018-10-12 17:52
Roderic March
Thanks for your kind words about my dad. He lived every day of his blessed life with honor, passion, joy, and humility. Attention embarrassed him, even when he appreciated it. One of my friends remembered Dad "taking many things seriously, but never taking himself too seriously." It was my good fortune to spend my whole life with him, and today I miss him. I wrote the words below shortly after he died, and I wanted to share them here.

Patterns disrupted

Over the past few years, the pattern of my life has included my father more and more. We spoke every day, usually to solve some computer malfunction or to help with email, but somehow we ended up talking about life and the meaning of everything. Slowly, this created a pattern in my life -- I had three alarms set to go off each day to call Dad. Twice for things he needed to get done and once just to talk. Every time I called, my father treated me to a smorgasbord of humor, advice, and proud admiration that was never diminished by whatever pain or challenge he was working through as his body began to neglect him. Although he was never effusive in praise or terribly sentimental, his love and support was joyful and unflinching. He'd talk about character, managing to sneak in a hint that he thought mine was OK.

On our calls, I also got the chance to talk about all the people he touched and about the list of friends who called that day asking what they could do to help. Often our calls had to be delayed because he had visitors who were unblushing in expressing their love for him while dutifully arguing about philosophy or life. These visits always lifted him, reminding him of the vital role he played in all our lives (although he'd never admit that out loud!).

Every week or two, I came down to visit and he would greet me with a list of projects to be done -- there were batteries to be replaced and new pictures to hang. This became the pattern of my life. No matter how full the rest of my day was with work or enjoying the company of my beautiful wife and wonderful dog, these calls and visits bracketed and somehow defined the rest. At no point did I imagine that he needed me or that I needed him. It was a simple, purposeful pattern of two people getting things done.

Last week that pattern was disrupted. My father was suddenly unable to move or speak. He couldn't tell me what needed to be fixed. A few days later he left altogether. I knew it was time, and he left surrounded by family, his phone ringing persistently with calls he knew were from friends. One of his happiest moments was when my sister Kath suggested that his ashes could be spread together with my mom's. He delighted in the idea of being forever "comingled" on the hillside with Mom. Soon we'll take care of that for him.

The pattern of my life made me think that I was taking care of him. This morning, as I gave up trying to wash dishes through a fog of tears, I realized I had it backwards.
2018-10-12 09:54
Tom De Schryver
Passion & Discipline.... and Talent. You had it all, James G. March.
2018-10-11 16:51
Liesbet Heyse
A large part of the theoretical work in my dissertation was based on the work of James March. It was therefore such a great honor to meet him during the Organization Science Winter Conference in 2006, a few years after I had defended my dissertation. I remember joining him at breakfast at some point. Despite the fact that I was a junior researcher, he was very kind and interested in my work. I was amazed that such an established, distinguished and great scholar could be so kind and unpretentious.
2018-10-10 19:38
Claudio Radaelli
Jim March was an exceptional innovator, someone with the capacity to think differently and powerfully about a whole range of organisational issues, decisions and public policies. A terrible loss. Sincere condolences to his family.
2018-10-08 10:25
Claes-Fredrik Helgesson
Jim was a truly inspirational role model as a scholar. I will always cherish my various virtual and real encounters with him.
2018-10-07 12:16
Eero Vaara
Jim March was an exceptional person who will be missed so much. It is hard to find the words to describe this tremendous loss. We all know him from his foundational work in organization theory, political science and many other areas, and some of us had the privilege of knowing him in person. Among other things he created SCANCOR, which has been so important for so many of us, me included. I will always be impressed by his intellectual power, admire his ability to look things from new angles, appreciate the personal advice given to me, and miss his wonderful sense of humor. He is one of my true heroes. My thoughts are with you, Jim, and your family.
2018-10-06 15:52
Fabrice Mielke
Dear family and friends,

There is little I can do or say to reduce your sadness. James G. March was an amazing scholar. I loved reading his articles and books. He was a great inspiration during my masters and my PhD. I am confident that he is now at a peaceful place, together with his wife Jayne. Now, he has the chance to discuss with philosophers like Cervantes, Goethe and Shakespeare. He will always remain in your hearts. Your memories and stories will make him alive.

May you all have inner peace.
All the best to you,

Fabrice Mielke
2018-10-05 23:10
Bjarne Espedal
Jim March was a person who did know: What kind of a person am I?
2018-10-05 10:43
Amalya Oliver
I heard Prof. March for the first time speak at EGOS about 10 years ago and was very touched by his modesty and sensitivity as well as special sense of humor. A few days later I sent him a thank you e-mail. He answered within one hour! this was very special and touching. He was a scholarly giant and his contributions to organization theory are incredible.
2018-10-05 10:31
Kjell Tryggestad
Dear Jim, dear James March

I first met you when I was a newly appointed assistant professor at the Department of Organisation og Arbejdssociologi/IOA at Copenhagen Business School, some 18 years ago. Before that, and during my work with my own PhD thesis, you had already made a profound impact on my way of thinking about organizational phenomena such as decision-making and rationality through your own writings. When we met at IOA it made good sense to me to be at the place where you once started to draft what would become a crisp and thought provoking piece of work titled “ The technology of foolishness” (March, 1971). Then you asked me in front of my new colleagues, “where do you come from?”, “It is a bit complicated,” I told him. “I am born in Norway, working here in Copenhagen and living in Sweden, in Malmö city, just across the bridge”. James March, of course, was no stranger to complicated organizational arrangements, nor a stranger to the complex history and geography of Scandinavia. With a twinkle in his eyes he continued: “ So you are from Norway!” Then he went on to give me – and my good Danish fellows at IOA – a small reminder of our common Scandinavian history: “You know, the Danes colonized Norway. So how do you feel about working here?” 18 years later, it still feels good. It has of course also become even more complicated. While living in Malmö and retaining my affiliation with Copenhagen Business School I am now also working at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, busy exploring and engaging with our bright young students in conversations about “The technology of foolishness”. Rest in peace. Your great work and spirit is carried on.

Kjell Tryggestad (professor)
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences & Copenhagen Business School

Reference:
March, J.G. (1971). The technology of foolishness. Civiløkonomen, 18(4), 4–12.
2018-10-05 10:30
Per Lægreid
Jim March has had great influence on organizational research in Norway, Scandinavia and beyond. The Nordic connection started when Johan P. Olsen was visiting him at Irvine University in 1978 which resulted in the Garbage Can Model. After moving to Stanford in 1970 a strong scientific network gradually developed between Jim and his colleagues in Norway and other Nordic countries. This collaboration was formalized in 1988 through the establishment of Scandinavian Consortium for Organizational Research (SCANCOR) at Stanford, with Jim as the founding father and first director. This center has given several generations of Norwegian and Nordic scholars a unique opportunity to have research stays in one of the world’s leading communities for organizational research.

Jim was an extraordinary scholar but also a great human. He wrote several poetry books and he was a true friend of Norway, illustrated by his several poems in Norwegian. He was an extraordinary friendly, social and inclusive person. He was a playful man with a separate play room for kids at Scancor and he had a special care for students, PhD fellows and young career researchers. He took teaching very serious and I was especially impressed the first time I visited him at his office. Inside the office door he had taken pictures of each and every student in his undergraduate class, with their name on so that he could answer them by name in the class. His informal ‘Munch’ seminars, Wednesday lunches, Friday wine sessions (‘I brought wine and they brought problems and somehow they both dissapeared’), dinners at Chef Chu and being Santa Claus at the Christmas party are good memories for all who has had the privilege of being a Scancor scholar.
2018-10-05 09:56
Philippe Lorino, distinguished professor at ESSEC Business School
Apart from reading him a lot, of course, I met Jim many times when I was a visiting scholar at Scancor, Stanford. He had an exceptional talent to make people, whatever their age and nationality, at ease, in a friendly and witty atmosphere, laughing and listening carefully to ,each other, in a seminar, a brunch or around a drink outside, in a garden. Young people loved him because he kept such a fresh and young view on aworth discussing, but older people (like me!) loved him too, because he was so respectful and wise. We shared our passion for fiction, Don Quijote and Tolstoï, and for poetry. He taught us that there is no contradiction between intellectual rigor and poetic imagination, but that an "honnête homme" needs both. What a legacy!
2018-10-05 09:38
Marina Brinkman, The Netherlands
My deepest condolences to family and friends! I am so thankful and grateful for each paper and books I've read. They are the foundation of my master and PhD thesis, and the start of a journey of personal growth. I will never forget your work mr March, neither will the generations to come.
2018-10-04 23:41
Stewart Clegg
Jim March was a gentleman, a scholar and a great writer. His prose shines brightly because of the sparkle in his writings. He was also a man of many talents - I recall a BBQ at Kristian Kreiner's house in Copenhagen and Jim was there, having just flown in. Kristian asked Jim how the flight was and he replied it was good - he had been able to translate some Nordic poetry en route. He also played a mean volleyball as participants in the Second Nordic Summer School in Organization Theory learnt in 1973 in Odense, Denmark. His Friday afternoon social sessions at Stanford were an institution in their own right: it was at one of these that I fist saw the early incarnation of the Internet in action as Jim corresponded with his daughter using one of the first PCs I saw in use in 1983. Finally, I recall a lovely evening with Jim, shared with others, at which we were fortunate to sit and talk for some time on a boat that set sail from Saltsjöbaden carrying delegates for a cruise from a seminar organized under the auspices of the Nobel Symposium on the Foundations of Organizations. Charming, super smart, erudite, in some ways, despite his eminence, iconoclastic - a great man. Long may he be remembered and held in honour.
2018-10-04 23:11
Renate Meyer
Your inspiration, insightfulness, joyfulness, generosity, kindness, humour, and laughter will be unforgettable. Thank you, Jim.

Most of the time I would happily
Replace all the pretenses
Of scholarly discussion
With the simple pleasure of a hug.
(Jim March, Plain Talk, 2011)
2018-10-04 17:54
Janne Tienari
In memory of a great human being - thank you for the inspiration!
2018-10-04 16:29
Barbara Czarniawska
Life, however long, will always be short.
Too short for anything to be added.

Wislawa Szymborska, “Our Ancestors’ short lives” in: Nothing Twice. Selected Poems
2018-10-04 16:20
Giuseppe Delmestri
I wish to offer my deepest condolences to Jim's family. I had the fortune and the pleasure to spend some time with Jim in April 2009 during my sabbatical. In that occasion we also recorded a video interview produced in cooperation with Stanford Video in the occasion of conferring Jim the Italian Award for Outstanding Contributions. The video has the title “La vita è bella, la vita è folle.” As Jim could not fly to Cagliari we showed the video at the annual Italian organization studies conference. All colleagues were moved by the interview in which Jim talked very personally of his relationship with colleagues and PhD students. I still use the video in PhD courses to socialize students to what it means to be an academic. As Jim said in the interview: "I met one of my colleagues retired recently and when he retired he stopped all of his scholarship, ... that for me says that he is probably no real scholar." Jim was the exemplar of a real scholar. We will miss him.
2018-10-04 16:15
Anup Karath Nair
I'm deeply pained to hear about Professor James March's death. He was a great scholar and indeed a very generous scholar who made time to admire the beauty in ideas. He was a great teacher as well. His beautifully written articles continue to remain a source of inspiration and intellectual nourishment. May his soul rest in peace and may his scholarship continue to entertain and enlighten.
2018-10-04 16:06
Donncha Kavanagh
I was deeply saddened to hear of Jim March's passing. He's been a true inspiration to generations of scholars and teachers, not just in organisation studies, but more broadly. Personally, I very much valued his generous help and wit during my study of his time as Dean of the School of Social Sciences in the University of California-Irvine during the 1960s. As we say in Irish, "Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís" [his likes will not be with us again].
2018-10-04 11:05
Morten Egeberg
I am particularly grateful for the many highly inspiring texts that Jim authored - meant a lot to me indeed!
2018-10-04 09:26
Jozef Bátora
Jim March – a Source of inspiring research on political institutions – has left us. A lot will be written about his fundamental contribution to political science and to organization theory. And I could write pages about him as an academic guru, film-maker and poet – all of which I had the opportunity to enjoy in numerous encounters and exchanges over the past 15 years. But today, I just pause for a moment and think of his calm spirit and down-to-earth practical Wisdom. This experience stays with many of us.
2018-10-04 03:45
Jarle Trondal
Jim inspired generations of scholars across disciplines, time and place in the study of organizations, institutions and human behavior. For many of us, his inspiration came through the many texts he produced. For some, personal encounters with Jim also showed his great personality as scholar. I am certain that Jim will serve as source of inspiration for scholars in the generations to come.
2018-10-03 21:42
Jean-Claude Thoenig
Jim was the model of what social scientists should achieve as academics: opening new agendas for creative research, sharing knowledge as a basic requirement, being able to learn from several scientific disciplines, being sensitive to arts, acting as a perfect gentleman. In other ways and as underlined by Johan Olsen a model of man. Respect and admiration for all you Jim have helped us to consider as required.
2018-10-03 18:47
Jacob Aars
With boundless gratitude for everything that Jim March did for the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen.