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Arch GA 47.9

Levitt, Theodore, 1925-2006. Theodore Levitt Papers, 1956-2000: A Finding Aid

Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Arch GA 47.9
Repository: Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: Theodore Levitt, 1925-2006
Title: Theodore Levitt papers
Date(s): 1956-2000
Quantity: 7 linear feet (14 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The collection includes course work, administrative material, speeches, and writings of Theodore Levitt, Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration and Head of Marketing Area at Harvard Business School.

Processing Information:

Processed: January 2010
By: Benjamin Johnson

Conditions Governing Access:

Materials is stored onsite. Restricted material has been indentified and separated. Note that box and folder lists of restricted material have been redacted. See Archivist for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Theodore Levitt Papers. HBS Archives. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Related Materials

For biographical information see also Arch GC Faculty Subject Files, Levitt, Theodore.

Biographical Note:

Theodore Levitt was born March 1, 1925 in Germany, and moved to Dayton, Ohio with his family a decade later. He was drafted into the U.S. Army while still in high school and served in Europe during World War II. He returned to Dayton, Ohio after the war and worked as a sports writer for the Dayton Journal Herald while earning his high school diploma through a correspondence course. He attended Antioch College and received a BA in 1949. Two years later he earned a doctorate in economics from Ohio State University and took a job teaching at the University of North Dakota. In 1956 he wrote his first article for the Harvard Business Review (HBR), entitled, "The Changing Character of Capitalism". This article landed him a job in Chicago as a consultant for the Standard Oil Company of Illinois. After his second article was published by HBR in 1958, he was recruited to join the faculty of Harvard Business School.
Levitt officially joined the faculty of Harvard Business School in 1959 and soon after published "Marketing Myopia", which appeared in the HBR. This article would be the cornerstone of his marketing philosophy. Levitt believed that businesses should focus their attention on securing and retaining customers rather than solely making profits. He argued that without customers, there could be no profit. He would go on to write numerous articles and books on business administration, management, and all aspects of marketing garnering four McKinsey awards and an Academy of Management Award, among others. In 1979 he was appointed the first Edward W. Carter Professor of Business Administration at HBS and served as the Head of the Marketing Area from 1977-1983. He was appointed by Dean John McArthur as the editor of the HBR from 1985-1989. He styled his articles and books so that readers came away with a clear understanding of the topic. Levitt is widely thought to have popularized the term "globalization" when he wrote, "The Globalization of Markets", in 1983. He believed that in order for a business to thrive it needed to think of its products in a global market instead of a local market. He stepped down as the editor of the HBR in 1990 and retained a faculty Emeritus title. He continued to work as an emeritus faculty member, but also traveled to attend public seminars, give speeches, and lecture on marketing. Levitt became a pivotal and sometimes controversial figure in the field of marketing and business management. He died on June 28, 2006 at his home in Belmont, Mass.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The papers of Theodore Levitt (1925-2006) document his career prior to HBS, at HBS, and while an active Emeritus Professor. The collection includes three series documenting his duties as the Head of the Marketing Area at HBS, speeches and writings, and emeritus activities. The bulk of the collection falls in the 1970s and includes administrative records, speeches, and draft versions of a variety of his most popular writings. This material highlights aspects of his high profile career including his role as the Head of the Marketing Area, before he left the faculty to become editor of the HBR. Series III, Emeritus papers consists of correspondence, subject files, writings, and speeches and presentations given as a guest speaker domestically and internationally.

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