Harold ‘Hal’ Bierman Jr., professor emeritus, dies at 96

Harold “Hal” Bierman Jr., the Nicholas H. Noyes Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Management and Finance, who transformed the framing of investment decisions and mentored thousands of MBA students over nearly six decades at Cornell, died Feb. 12 in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. He was 96.

Bierman joined the Cornell faculty in 1956, serving for 59 years in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management as a professor of finance, accounting and management.

Harold Bierman Jr.

“Hal was a longtime and beloved member of the Johnson and Cornell communities, and his influence and impact will live on,” said Mark Nelson, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of Johnson.

In 1961, Bierman was awarded the Nicholas H. Noyes Chaired Professorship of Business Administration and in 2010 the Harold Bierman Jr. Distinguished Professorship of Management was established by alumni in his honor.

There have been few business educators with as broad and deep an impact as his, Nelson said.

His professional accomplishments include scores of articles and several books, the most famous of which is “The Capital Budgeting Decision,” co-authored with the late Seymour Smidt, former professor at Johnson. “This book truly defined and shaped the field of investments and capital budgeting,” Nelson said.

One of Bierman’s most significant achievements was developing and championing a road map to evaluate the merits of investment options, whether in private business, the public sector or for individuals. Today, these tools are used and relied upon by nearly every organization.

“Hal’s contributions to the field of finance were transformational. He revolutionized the way in which complex investment and corporate financial policy decisions should be deconstructed and framed,” said Andrew Karolyi, the Harold Bierman, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Management, deputy dean and dean of Academic Affairs of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. “His writings on the economic analysis of investment projects became the core concepts for literally generations of students and future corporate financial managers at business schools all around the world.

“I am so proud to have been Hal’s colleague here at Cornell,” Karolyi  said, “and to carry the title of the Harold Bierman, Jr. Distinguished Professorship in Management – his legacy lives on forever.”

In 2001, after serving for years as an adviser to the development of the business program at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, that institution awarded Bierman an honorary doctor of law degree.

Bierman coached his sons’ youth baseball and basketball teams years ago, constantly reminding his players that “every game is a lesson and every lesson a victory.”

In addition to wife Florence, Bierman is survived by his sons Jim, Scott, Bruce and Jonathan; 11 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Harold Bierman, Jr. Distinguished Professorship of Management at Cornell. Gifts may be made online at www.giving.cornell.edu/give.

Sarah Magnus-Sharpe is director of public relations and communications at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

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Rebecca Valli