FIFTY-SIX years ago today, a Bell System manager sent postcards to 16 of the most capable and promising young executives at the company. What was written on the postcards was surprising, especially coming from a corporate ladder-climber at a time when the nation was just beginning to lurch out of a recession: “Happy Bloom’s Day.”
It was a message to mark the annual celebration of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” the epic novel built around events unfolding on a single day — June 16, 1904 — in the life of the fictional Dubliner Leopold Bloom. But the postcard also served as a kind of diploma for the men who received it.
Two years earlier a number of Bell’s top executives, led by W. D. Gillen, then president of Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania, had begun to worry about the education of the managers rising through the company’s hierarchy. Many of these junior executives had technical backgrounds, gained at engineering schools or on the job, and quite a few had no college education at all. They were good at their jobs, but they would eventually rise to positions in which Gillen felt they would need broader views than their backgrounds had so far given them.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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