Professor Edward Roberts, renowned management scholar, Passed Away at 88

Edward Roberts
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Edward B. Roberts ’58, SM ’58, SM ’60, PhD ’62, a pioneering professor at MIT Sloan, was instrumental in identifying the essential elements for successful technology-based businesses, thus shaping the entrepreneurial landscape at MIT for generations of students and faculty.

Roberts, who passed away at the age of 88 on Tuesday, left an indelible mark on MIT during his remarkable seven-decade career. He was not only a prolific scholar but also a dedicated mentor who played a pivotal role in establishing what is now known as the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. This center has served as a vital resource, guiding countless innovators in navigating the complexities of bringing their inventions and ideas to fruition in the marketplace.

Roberts, holding the esteemed title of David Sarnoff Professor of Management of Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management, was a dynamic and supportive figure who championed the concept of establishing companies centered around a distinct core idea, coupled with groundbreaking technology to execute that idea. His influential teachings and the infrastructure of the Martin Trust Center provided countless MIT students and faculty with the guidance needed to navigate the intricacies of launching their startups, all under the profound influence of Roberts’ pioneering work.

MIT President Sally Kornbluth hailed Roberts as an “MIT icon” whose groundbreaking contributions paved the way for the university’s thriving entrepreneurial culture and global recognition as a hub for impactful startups. Kornbluth noted Roberts’ propensity for venturing into uncharted territory, particularly in shaping the understanding that entrepreneurship can be systematically studied and effectively taught.

In a co-authored report in 2015, Roberts highlighted the immense impact of MIT alumni, revealing that they had launched over 30,200 active companies by 2014, employing approximately 4.6 million individuals and generating an estimated $1.9 trillion in annual revenues. This staggering figure would have ranked MIT among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of GDP.

Reflecting on his profound influence, Roberts humbly stated during a 2011 interview for an MIT Sloan oral history series, “I have helped MIT to become a much more entrepreneurial place,” encapsulating his transformative legacy in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship at MIT.

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