Swedish college honors Carlson School professor

by Bryan Keogh

Academic institutions reserve their highest honors for those individuals who make outstanding contributions to particular fields or branches of study.
These honorary doctorates are often reserved for politicians and other professionals, said David Kidwell, dean of the Carlson School of Management.
But the Stockholm School of Economics bestowed University professor Gordon Davis with an honorary degree Oct. 28. The honor has special meaning because two of the professor’s great-grandparents were born in Sweden.
Davis has earned other honorary degrees from universities in France and Switzerland, but said the Swedish honor is the most significant to him.
“This is not only nice because it reflects the work I’ve done in Minnesota, it reflects all that (my great-grandparents) had done, that I was a beneficiary of,” said Davis, the school’s Honeywell Professor of Management Information Systems.
Wearing white ties and tails, Davis, Swedish King Carl Gustaf XVI and three other professors received distinguished degrees during the school’s graduation ceremony in Stockholm’s City Hall.
“It was just a fun thing to have happen,” Davis said. “It was carried out with pomp and circumstance, and good feeling.”
Davis established an information-systems program at the University’s business school in 1968, one of the first such programs in the world.
For the past three decades, he has lectured in 30 countries on improving business-technology infrastructure and organizational-strategies management.
“Gordon Davis is one of those faculty who can claim to be a founder of a field — there are not many who can do that,” said Chris Nachtsheim, associate dean of the Carlson School. The school’s namesake, Curt Carlson, was named Swedish-American of the year in 1981.
Davis witnessed the power of information technology in 1989 while teaching to Chinese students in Shanghai just days before the Tianamen Square massacre.
Computers and communication systems trumped the government’s ability to control information, he said.
Chinese officials cut off external television signals and took other steps to shield citizens from the riots. But protesters used the extensive Chinese fax network to send information about the protests to American friends.
Davis’ friends and colleagues said the professor’s impact on the information-systems field stretches beyond the University.
“He has certainly been an outstanding leader, not just nationally, but internationally,” said Thomas R. Hoffmann, Carlson School professor of information and decision sciences.
Mats Lundeberg, professor and head of the information management department in the Stockholm School of Economics, nominated Davis for the honorary degree.
“Gordon Davis is currently the grand old academic man of our field,” Lundeberg said.

Bryan Keogh covers graduate and professional schools and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.