Skip to main content

Alan Pike dies at 65; taught management communication to generations of MBAs at Cornell's Johnson School

Media Contact

Media Relations Office

Alan Pike, 65, a senior lecturer in communication who taught generations of business leaders at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management, died of heart failure Jan. 7 in his Ithaca home.

Born in Flushing, N.Y., on Jan. 15, 1940, Pike graduated from Yale University in 1961. After serving as an officer in the United States Navy, he came to Cornell in 1966. He subsequently completed a master's degree in English literature and taught courses on literature and values, freshman humanities seminars and creative writing in the university's Department of English, before joining the Johnson School faculty in 1980 and helping to develop the school's then-nascent management communication program.

At the Johnson School, he designed and taught oral communication and management writing courses to MBA students until his retirement in May 2005. A popular teacher, he thrived on his interactions with his students. He routinely made the top of the list in their teaching evaluations, and his courses were usually oversubscribed. "He was very engaged with his students and they with him," said Professor L. Joseph Thomas, associate dean for academic affairs.

"Alan touched the lives of many Cornell students, colleagues and friends with his enthusiasm and generosity," said Charlotte Rosen, senior lecturer and director of communications programs at the Johnson School.

An avid outdoorsman, Pike also helped create and coordinate the Johnson School's Outdoor Leadership/Team Development Program (from 1987 to 2001), which introduced MBA students to the dynamics of leadership in wilderness environments.

In addition, he designed and taught courses in management writing and oral communication in the school's Executive Development Program, Cornell Adult University, Syracuse University Executive MBA Program and Binghamton University School of Management Business Communication Institute and consulted on management communications with such companies as IBM and Fleet Financial Group.

In all those roles and others, former students, friends and family recalled, Pike invigorated the lives of many with his wisdom, hearty bear hugs, culinary finesse and spirited gorge walks -- usually accompanied by his dog, Cobie.

"He possessed an uncanny ability to effortlessly spot a perfectly formed trilobite in a stream bed cluttered with hundreds of rocks," wrote his daughters, Kirsten and Signe Pike, in an obituary that ran in the Ithaca Journal Jan. 9 and 10. "As a father, he filled [our] lives with adventure -- skiing, hiking, ice climbing, rock climbing, canoeing and mountain climbing were all part of the honor of being a Pike daughter." In addition, he regaled them with tales from Chaucer, Tolkien and Hemingway during childhood story hours, they said.

In addition to his daughters, Pike is survived by his older sister, Myrna Lee, and his former wife, Linda Johanson. A memorial service was held Jan. 14 at Wagner Funeral Home of Ithaca.