Former Dean C. Jackson Grayson passes

May 08, 2017

Jack Grayson
C. Jackson "Jack" Grayson served as dean of the Freeman School from 1964 to 1968.

C. Jackson "Jack" Grayson Jr., former dean of the A. B. Freeman School of Business, died on May 4 at his home in Houston. He was 93.

Grayson was executive chairman of the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC), an organization he founded in 1977 to spread the adoption of successful business practices and processes.

Born on a plantation in Fort Necessity, Louisiana, Grayson has the distinction of being the only Freeman School graduate to serve as dean: He received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Tulane University’s College of Commerce and Business Administration, later to be known as the A. B. Freeman School of Business, in 1944. After serving in the Pacific during World War II, Grayson earned an MBA from the Wharton School and returned to Tulane as an accounting instructor. He soon grew restless, however, and embarked on an odyssey that would see him travel to Europe and take up residence in Paris, work as a crime reporter for the New Orleans Item newspaper, and become a special agent with the FBI.

Grayson rejoined Tulane’s faculty in 1953 as an associate professor but soon departed to earn his doctorate from Harvard Business School. He rejoined Tulane for the third and final time in 1959. After serving as associate dean under Howard Schaller, Grayson was appointed dean of the business school in 1964. In addition to being an innovative educator and an early champion of the case-study method of teaching, Grayson introduced the first business doctoral program, hosted Tulane’s first national business conference and founded the Business School Council, the school's primary external advisory board.

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In 1968, Grayson left Tulane to become dean of the business school at Southern Methodist University. He rose to national prominence in 1971 when he was appointed by President Richard Nixon to serve as chairman of the U.S. Price Commission at a time when national price controls were in effect. Grayson’s experience in Washington led him to think more seriously about the importance of productivity to the nation’s economic well-being. In 1977, he founded the American Productivity & Quality Center, originally known as the American Productivity Center, in an effort to halt America's decline in productivity, quality and competitiveness. The organization offered productivity improvement training courses, established common performance measures and conducted the first White House Conference on Productivity. Grayson and APQC went on to establish the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, launch the International Benchmarking Clearinghouse to help organizations identify and learn from best practices, and establish the Process Classification Framework, a business taxonomy now regarded as the most widely used worldwide for process improvement.

A biography of Grayson's life, Freedom to Dream, Courage and Act: The First Nine Decades of C. Jackson Grayson, was released in 2014 to celebrate his 91st birthday. Grayson retired from APQC in September 2015, just shy of his 92nd birthday.

“From his work at Tulane and the Freeman School to his efforts on behalf of APQC, Jack used business knowledge to improve the lives of people around the world,” said Freeman School Dean Ira Solomon. "His life was an inspiration, and I'm happy to say his legacy will live on through the work of APQC."

A celebration of Grayson's life will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 12, at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston. A reception will follow in the Fellowship Hall. To learn more about Grayson, see this article from the Freeman School's Centennial website.