Academy of Management Honors UVA Darden Professor Ed Freeman With Lifetime Achievement Award

By Emma D'Arpino

The Academy of Management (AOM) awarded University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Ed Freeman the 2018 Award for Distinguished Scholarly Contributions to Management at its annual meeting in Chicago on 12 August.

The award is a lifetime career achievement award that recognizes long-term, significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: conceptual, empirical or theoretical developments; creating and disseminating new knowledge; and advancing management knowledge and practice.

This award marks the most recent addition to the globally acclaimed professor’s list of lifetime achievement awards from institutions such as the World Resources Institute and Aspen Institute, the Humboldt University Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Society for Business Ethics.

“To be recognized by the Academy of Management and to be honored with this prestigious award is a testament to the impact and value of Ed’s work throughout his career,” said Joey Burton, executive director of Darden’s Institute for Business in Society, where Freeman serves as an academic director. “Ed is a pioneer in his field. He continually pushes himself and those around him to produce new ideas and to envision business as a source of social good.”

The AOM committee said it was particularly impressed by Freeman’s continuing contributions to scholarly inquiry and his constant efforts to create new knowledge. Additionally, the committee noted that Freeman’s development of stakeholder theory remains a fundamental concept in management theory today.

“He almost single-handedly popularized the concept of ‘stakeholder,’ and his work subsequently inspired a generation of researchers to attempt to unpack this multifaceted concept,” one nominator said.

“Stakeholder reasoning is today a fundamental dimension of both theory and practice,” another nominator added. “Academics and managers alike speak of stakeholders of organizations. This circumstance is due to [Ed Freeman’s] insights and efforts. Stakeholder reasoning is infused into strategy, organizational, business ethics, environmental, and social issues in management literatures.”

Freeman said his influential idea came about not just in an effort to develop a theory and see how that theory applied, but rather in an effort to understand and improve business. I tried to describe and make sense of what I saw going on in the world and I tried to figure out what business really was,” Freeman said. “It seemed like every business I saw was trying to create value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities, and financiers. In other words, business was purpose driven and value creating. I took this as common sense more than seeing it as a theory, so Stakeholder Theory is a sense-making idea more than anything else.”

Freeman’s “sense-making idea” was first popularized when he published his book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach in 1984. One nominator noted that the work “was a landmark development in the field of business and society, and marked the beginnings of an entirely new area of study on stakeholder management from a strategic standpoint.”

Since publishing his renowned book in 1984, Freeman has continuously produced new work, authoring or editing over 30 volumes and 200 articles to date. All of this has amounted to a career that has vastly impacted the field of management.

One nominator said, “It would be hard to think of a more creative or iconoclastic thinker in modern business academe. Dr. Freeman, someone who has made splendid use of his eclectic schooling, including a Ph.D. degree in philosophy, continues to shake the foundations of business thinking.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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