Prof. Leonard Lodish Reflects on 40 Years in Wharton’s EMBA Program

Wharton Prof. Leonard Lodish
Wharton Prof. Leonard Lodish

Having taught in Wharton’s EMBA program since the first class began in 1975, Prof. Leonard Lodish has seen plenty of changes throughout the years. In addition to teaching students, he also served as the initial vice dean of Wharton | San Francisco from 2001 through 2009, and is currently a senior advisor in San Francisco.

What does your current role involve in the EMBA program?

I have office hours and mentor students on the West Coast. I also am a mentor in Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program and am the cofounder and leader of the Global Consulting Practicum – EMBA students can participate in both of those programs.

What do you like about teaching and mentoring EMBA students?

I’ve taught in both the full-time MBA and EMBA programs and a big difference is that the EMBAs tend to be older and have worked long enough to have made mistakes in their careers. This makes a difference in perspective and enriches our class discussions. Second, the EMBA students use what they learn during the weekend at their job on Monday. Then, they’ll come back to class and tell you whether or not it worked. I often change what we do in class as a result. Third, this is an undiluted version of our full-time MBA program. This is a main reason why students come to Wharton’s EMBA program and why our faculty want to teach in it.

What was it like teaching the first class of Wharton EMBA students in 1975?

I was excited to teach in the program and impressed by the students, who were a bit older than me. This was 1975 and I had only been at Wharton for six years and was in my late 20s while the students were 35 or older. I’m still friends with some of the people I taught back then. In fact, I worked on a startup related to the design and development of a running bra with a student in that first class, Sonny Waldman, the founder of Mainstream Swimsuits. We even created a contest in the Wharton Journal to name the product and the winner was “Runderwear.” The problem was that during the time it took to develop our product, someone else came up with Jogbra. We used direct marketing and sold a number of products for a few years until a bigger brand bought the name. We had a lot of fun on that project.

How have the EMBA students changed since the program began?

It used to be common for big companies to send their fast-tracked employees to Wharton to be groomed for the next level. We still have students from big companies, but we also have a lot of successful people who are self-sponsored and investing in their own education. In addition, students are becoming more entrepreneurial. They’re excited about entrepreneurship and we’re developing more infrastructure to help our students and alumni with their efforts in this area.