William L. “Bill” Haeberle, the creator of one of the nation’s first collegiate entrepreneurship programs and emeritus professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, died at his Bloomington home on Oct. 26 at the age of 95.
Over a career spanning nearly six decades, Haeberle left an enduring impact not only on the Kelley School but also on Indiana’s entrepreneurial culture, working with many who started new enterprises. He also advised numerous top executives on how to they could spark a more entrepreneurial spirit at larger firms.
Haeberle’s contributions to executive education led to its emergence as part of the mission at Kelley and other business schools around the country. He taught at the Kelley School from 1946 until his retirement in 1984 and remained active as an emeritus faculty member into the next decade.
“Bill Haeberle’s forward-thinking mindset was the foundation of the Kelley School’s entrepreneurship and executive education programs, but it also contributed greatly to Kelley’s tradition of a culture of innovation across all programs,” said Idalene “Idie” Kesner, Kelley School dean and the Frank P. Popoff Chair of Strategic Management. “He challenged norms and inspired his colleagues and students to go beyond their comfort zones, firm in his belief that complacency and risk aversion were obstacles to personal excellence.”
Donald F. Kuratko, the Jack M. Gill Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship and executive director of Kelley’s Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, said very few individuals can say they affected an entire state the way Haeberle has. “Bill Haeberle was talking and living entrepreneurship long before anyone else used the word in 1946. His entrepreneurial career spanned over six decades, truly an indelible legacy that established him as the ‘godfather of entrepreneurship’ for the state of Indiana.”
Born May 19, 1922, in Maywood, Indiana (now part of Indianapolis), Haeberle graduated from Ben Davis High School in 1940 and completed his bachelor’s degree in business in just three years. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946, was promoted to captain, and received a Bronze Star. A licensed airplane pilot, he also served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, retiring in 1982.
After the war, Haeberle returned to IU to earn a Master’s in Business Administration in 1947 and a doctorate in business in 1952.
He was one of a remarkable group of business doctoral students who remained at IU after completing their degrees and later served in key administrative and faculty roles, following a policy for building “homegrown” faculty for the rapidly growing business school after World War II. His peers included W. George Pinnell, IU executive vice president and president of the IU Foundation; Jack R. Wentworth, Kelley’s dean from 1984 to 1993; and Charles F. Bonser, who became the first dean of IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
In 1959, Haeberle organized the first course in entrepreneurship at IU and seven years later initiated internship programs at private businesses, a program that later became the National Entrepreneurship Academies.
From 1958 to 1984, Haeberle directed the Indiana Executive Program, a precursor to the short courses, coaching, and certificate-to-degree opportunities now offered by Kelley’s Executive Education program.
In 1989, Haeberle helped to establish what today is the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which supports faculty research and educational offerings in the discipline at Kelley. He served as a senior fellow at the center, which today presents the William L. Haeberle Entrepreneurial Legacy Award to Hoosiers who represent the very best in entrepreneurship.
Over the years, Haeberle led generations of students and alumni through a variety of entrepreneurial activities ranging from automotive dealerships to oil well explorations to Wall Street, and from forming and operating limited partnerships that financed aviation and transportation companies to providing venture capital and consultation for insurance companies.
He was involved in the start-up of more than four dozen private and public companies and he was a professional corporate director for more than five dozen private and public companies.
Among his former students was Kelley alumnus Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, co-owner of 2929 Entertainment and chairman of AXS Television. As a freshman, Cuban signed up for Haeberle’s W406 Senior Entrepreneurship course.
Years later, as recorded in Haeberle’s 2007 autobiography, “I Never Worked a Day in My Life,” Cuban told Haeberle, “The biggest thing I remember and what goes to your style of teaching was that you made it very clear in everything you said in class, was the opportunity was there for everyone who worked for it. That anyone in the class had every opportunity to be as successful as you were. We just had to focus and work at it, and that the entrepreneurship class would give us the tools to get there. You were right!”
Haeberle was a generous supporter of the Kelley School. Patricia McDougall-Covin, an early pioneer of the study of the international entrepreneurship and a former associate dean of the Kelley School, is the William L. Haeberle Professor of Entrepreneurship.
He also served on the board of directors or as a consultant for dozens of entrepreneurial ventures. In 1983, then-Indiana Gov. Robert Orr appointed Haeberle to the board of the Indiana Institute for New Business Ventures. Haeberle also guided several national organizations, including the National Entrepreneurship Foundation, which he founded in 1981 and led for many years. In 1983, Haeberle was named vice president of the National Association of Corporate Directors, which helped individual board members evaluate and improve their knowledge and skills by providing educational and informational programs on board-related issues. He also was director of the International Consortium for University Executive Education from 1972 to 1993.
In 1989, he received the Indiana Heartland Entrepreneur of the Year from Arthur Young and Inc. magazine and was inducted into the Institute of American Entrepreneurs.
Even after retiring from full-time teaching, in 1992, Haeberle developed the second-known graduate-level course in turnaround management, for students who were interested in consulting ailing firms on how to return to profitability and leadership. He taught his last class in 2004.
He is survived by a daughter, Patricia Yvonne Haeberle Olsen of Potomac, Maryland; two sons, David Carlton Haeberle of Bloomington, Indiana, and a clinical professor of finance and the Peterson Faculty Fellow in Investment Banking at Kelley; William Carlton Haeberle of Columbus, Indiana, and an IU Trustee Lecturer of Business at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus; and six grandchildren, a great-grandson, three sisters-in-law, four nephews and three nieces.
Friends are invited to a celebration of Haeberle’s life, from 3 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 at his home, 1213 S. High Street in Bloomington. There will be a private interment for immediate family the following day.
In lieu of flowers, please provide support to the William L. Haeberle Professorship of Entrepreneurship via the IU Foundation or the Bloomington Hospital Foundation for Home Hospice.