Thomas P. Gerrity '63, SM '64, PhD '70
Wharton professor makes IT a strategic business tool.
In the MIT tradition, Tom Gerrity ‘63, SM ‘64, PhD ‘70, learned by doing. While earning his bachelor’s in electrical engineering, Gerrity, the Joseph Aresty Professor of Management and former dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, found himself managing an organization.
“I served as the MIT Athletic Association vice president for intramural sports,” Gerrity recalls. Then he laughs. “There were thousands of students participating in 40 or 50 sports. We had to schedule fields and referees for every game, the works. I learned more about management through that experience than I did in any courses I took later.”
That’s saying a lot, since Gerrity studied economics at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earned a doctorate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he also taught from 1968 to 1972. “I’ve always loved MIT,” Gerrity says. “That’s why I keep coming back.”
While studying electrical engineering at MIT, “I found myself drawn to information technology’s applications,” Gerrity says. “I wanted to advance its contributions in business.” In 1969 he founded the Index Group, based on ideas in his dissertation. The company developed a prototype management system to study how using computers affects non-computer-savvy managers and became a leading consulting firm in business reëngineering and information technology strategy.
Gerrity, who was CEO of the Index Group from its founding to 1989, says he owes its success to MIT colleagues and a former professor. Jim Champy ‘63, Richard Carpenter ‘64, and Fred Luconi ‘64 played key roles. And Gerrity’s MIT mentor, professor emeritus Michael Scott Morton, directed the company during its first years.
These days Gerrity conducts research in leadership and organizational development and teaches in Wharton’s Department of Management and Operations and the Department of Information Management. “We graduate about 2,000 students each year,” he says. “I’m in the remarkable position of cultivating a sense of ethics, integrity, and respect among emerging leaders for thousands of companies worldwide.”
Gerrity, who serves on the MIT Corporation and several visiting committees, lives in Haverford, PA, with his wife, Anna, and their children: Caitlin, 19; Tommy, 17; Jimmy, 15; and Erin, 13. “We enjoy hiking as a family in Montana’s Bear Tooth Mountains,” he says. “Anna and I are particularly fond of rock climbing, which we’ve done together for 12 years now. It’s thrilling to climb–we love it.”