When Linda Greiner Sprague, an operations management expert, was invited to China in 1980, it was a rare opportunity to take part in that nation’s plan to broaden educational opportunities and revive manufacturing.
“I was invited by the U.S. Department of Commerce to join a team of eight American faculty who would be sent to China’s Dalian Institute of Technology to introduce a group of 125 Chinese managers to American industrial practice,” she says. “The eight of us were able to visit plants all over northeast China. In many cases, it was like walking through an earlier century.”
For Sprague, the six-month visit was the start of a long relationship with China. The team’s lectures were widely distributed throughout the country. Since 1997, she has served at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai in positions from faculty member to chair of the accreditation committees; she now holds the title of first emeritus professor.
Sprague earned her MIT degree in Course XV—and she was the first woman to win MIT’s top student award for community service, the Karl Taylor Compton Award. She received an MBA from Boston University in 1967 and a doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration in 1973. She began her teaching career at the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics in 1969, served in many faculty and administrative roles, and was named a professor emerita in 2005.
Over the years, she has consulted internationally and served on the faculty at Cranfield University in England and, during that time, as academic advisor to the Cranfield/Kalyani Manufacturing Program in India. She also taught in Spain and at Dartmouth and Stanford. She has never let language barriers hold her back: as she says, “I don’t speak Chinese or Russian or Czech—I speak engineering.”
Sprague, who describes herself as an inventory nerd, has served as president of the International Society for Inventory Research and was named an operations management distinguished scholar by the Operations Management Division of the Academy of Management. She is a fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute and the Institute for Operations (U.K.) as well as a certified practitioner in inventory management.
She married Christopher Sprague ‘61, SM ‘64, PhD ‘68, in the MIT Chapel in 1960. He died in 2005, some 30 years after suffering a massive stroke. The Spragues had two children: a daughter, Barbara, and a son, James, who is married to Kimberley Isenberg Sprague ‘83, SM ‘84.