Back in 1951, there were no MBA programs offered in the Western New York area.  This meant that there were no public programs for companies to send their new or potential managers for development opportunities.

At that time, Guy Berner (Niagara Share), Russ McNeill (Houdaille), Karr Parker (Buffalo Electric), and Pete Gebhart (Balfour Jewelry) were recent graduates of the Harvard Business School working in the Buffalo area. They decided to fill the gap by starting a case-based program, modeled on the first year of the Harvard MBA. Their mission was simply to help their own companies develop future managers.

The Executive Development Program ran for 25 weeks two or three cases an evening. For the first few years, there were 8 to 10 students in the class. The tuition was $30 for 25 sessions!

In the next few years, the moderator team expanded to include Dick Piper, Ralph Seiler, Ray Bernhardt MD, Frank Wilton, Kevin Keane, George Laub, and Myles Fox.  During the 70 year span of the Program, at least 109 HBS graduates and others have moderated cases. (See List of Historical Moderators) Many of the volunteer moderators are so committed to management development and Buffalo that they have continued their service for over 20 years. Some have continued for more than twice that!


The first classes were held at multiple locations, rotating among conference rooms at some of the moderators’ companies. By the 1960s, the classroom had moved to a consistent location at Canisius College. In the late 1980s, the Program moved to Daemen College. In 2011, the Program classroom moved again, to the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Medical Campus; in 2012 to The United Way Building on Delaware Avenue. In 2013, another move down Delaware Avenue to The Buffalo Club.

By the 1980s, the Program had grown to a class size averaging 25 participants. However, the Christmas break and January school closings for weather often lead to reduced class size for the second half of the year. In addition, the number of volunteer moderators shrank. In response, the Program length was reduced from 26 to 13 weeks, and the name was changed from Executive to Management Development.


Over the years, the all-volunteer organization began generating a residue of funds from the tuition. In 1967 Russ McNeill and Kermit Brandt set up the HBS Club of Buffalo Fellowship Fund at the School. Each year the extra funds were sent to HBS for the HBS Club of Buffalo Fellowship, with two requests: to use the funds for extra support of MBA students from WNY, and to give credit to each of the moderators for having made an alumni gift.

By 1985 the HBS Club Fellowship Fund at Harvard had grown significantly in market value.  However, the School notified the Buffalo Club that it would no longer be able to comply with the above two requests.

As a result, the HBS Buffalo Club retained the excess funds locally and began considering how to use them. In time, an annual distribution procedure developed in which each moderator was allocated an amount, depending upon the Club’s current financial condition, to distribute to a WNY nonprofit of their choosing. Thru 2020, these distributions have gone to 90 organizations and totaled over $500,000.

In 1996, the name of the fellowship was expanded to The Dean W. Rech/HBS Club of Buffalo Fellowship, to honor the many years of service Dean had given the Club before his untimely death that February.


Over the years, the Club has donated $500,000 to the Dean W. Rech/HBS Buffalo Fellowship. By 2004, the effective investment by the HBS Alumni Fund had increased the value of the Fellowship to $2.5 million. That year, the School advised HBS Buffalo that the Club could use funds from the Fellowship to support WNY applicants to the several, week-long executive education programs for Nonprofits. Since then, HBS Buffalo has given full scholarships each year to WNY participants in the Not for Profit Programs at HBS.


In late 2004, the first group of four NFP scholarship participants spoke very highly of their experience at HBS. At that time, the Club was limited to only four scholarships per year. We decided to begin our own, local Not For Profit Program. It is management development in the nonprofit world, similar to the School programs, but far less expensive. The Not For Profit Program follows the 1951 mission to make available an inexpensive management development program for local participants.


In 2009, the School began a new, three-week, executive education program: Managing Health Care Delivery. Since the individual tuition for the program was $21,000, the School told us that they were not expecting participation from Buffalo.

However, using the HBS Buffalo Fellowship funds and some matching scholarships from the School, the HBS Buffalo Club sent eight managers and clinicians from three WNY hospitals to the MHCD Program! The Club’s purpose was to support a shared experience, encouraging bonds between the local hospitals, and thereby to improve the medical delivery for the whole region. The team from Buffalo was the largest group from a single city in the 65 person, international MHCD Program.

HBS Buffalo has continued to offer matching scholarship funds to local hospitals for participants in the MHCD program. Through 2020 there have been 91 Buffalo participants in the program including 41 for whom HBS Buffalo has provided the tuition.


Continuing our support of the healthcare sector of WNY, in the spring of 2013, HBS Buffalo offered scholarships to the Emerging Issues in Healthcare Program at HBS to the presidents of Kaleida, Roswell, ECMC, Catholic Health Systems, and NFMMC, the presidents of the three local health insurance companies, the Dean of UB Medical School, and the President of the John R. Oishei Foundation.

Using our Fellowship, we were able to give scholarships to seven attendees. Four others from Buffalo also participated. The Oishei Foundation held a dinner in Cambridge for the Buffalo participants to encourage communication. The head of the Emerging Issues Program Dr. Bohmer hosted a luncheon for the Buffalo team.


Also in 2013, the Club began a Health Care Program to encourage the sharing of ideas and experiences among the hospital staff. The moderators for this program came from the graduates of the HBS program, Managing Health Care Delivery. For each session of the Health Care Program, there has been very strong participation from the local hospitals and health insurance providers.


From 2015 to 2019, Wayne Robinson developed and presented the Advanced Management Program. The program was designed for individuals on a management career track who aspire to general management responsibility.  It was a program that challenges students to learn new tools, assimilate large amounts of information and apply these tools in a focused classroom environment.  In short, the program was designed to train future business leaders.


In 2010, the Flickinger Family and the Community Foundation asked HBS Buffalo to develop a program for board governance. While quite different from the management development programs in focus and the use of cases, the Club used its program planning and moderating experience to present four sessions for seven non-profit boards, 42 participants.


One of the moderators in the Buffalo Management Development Program, Jack Burke
retired to Charlotte. In 2003, he asked for assistance in starting a similar program in his new location.  We supplied Jack with schedules, instructions, case names, brochures, application forms, evaluation forms, and web site content. The Charlotte Club used the material to construct their own, similar Management Development Program. That program continues very successfully today.


In 2013, Michael Millitelo, prior HBS Buffalo President, moved to San Diego. He then persuaded the much larger San Diego HBS Alumni Club to start both an NFP and Management Development program, also modeled after the Buffalo programs.

The three HBS clubs share ideas about teaching methods and specific cases.  They share the common objective of presenting an inexpensive, case-based, local management development opportunities in Buffalo, Charlotte, and San Diego.


For the past half-century, HBS Buffalo has remained committed to local management and governance education using the case method and volunteers from HBS MBA and executive education programs.

For the next half-century, HBS Buffalo plans to continue its management development programs, in support of For-Profit and Not For Profit organizations in the Buffalo area, as well as its financial support of scholarships for local, non-profit managers.  Our hope is that other HBS alumni groups will join Buffalo, Charlotte, and San Diego to bring the benefits of low cost, case-based, management education to their local area.