Retired Harvard Business School Professor Louis B. “By” Barnes, an expert on organizational behavior, family-owned businesses, and teaching by the case method, died on August 22 at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor from complications from kidney failure. He was 81 years old. A member of the HBS faculty for more than 40 years, at the time of his death he was the School’s John D. Black Professor Emeritus.
Barnes’s research focused on small groups and their function within an organization, career paths, interpersonal relationships, and organizational change. He was one of the first academics to look at the dynamics of family companies in the 1970s, helping to lay the groundwork for Harvard Business School’s long tradition of research in this area. Through his exemplary teaching and insightful writings, he helped countless students and practitioners understand the human side of enterprise.
“By had an extraordinary ability to phrase questions that drew thoughtful insights from his students,” recalled Senior Lecturer John A. Davis. “He would carefully listen to their answers and respond, helping them refine their arguments and fostering a lively discussion.” In a 1997 interview, he characterized his philosophy of teaching as “the discipline of listening extracarefully before making interventions in the discussion.”
Barnes taught courses in the School’s MBA and Doctoral programs as well as the Advanced Management Program for senior executives; the Program for Management Development, offered for many years to middle managers; and the Owner/President Management Program for entrepreneurs, which became the focus of his attention from 1989 until his retirement from the active faculty in 1998.
He is survived by his wife, Julie Wang, of Brooklin, and two ex-wives, Florence Eggleston of Wellesley, Mass., and Wendy Slattebo of Concord, Mass. He also leaves two brothers, Harry Barnes of Peacham, Vermont, and Jim Barnes of Crawfordsville, Ind.; a daughter, Linda Barnes of Cambridge, Mass; two sons, John Barnes of Readfield, Maine, and Ted Barnes of Wayland, Mass; a stepdaughter, Alisa Pascale of Arlington, Mass; five grandchildren and a stepgrandchild. Another daughter, Lisa Murphy, died in 1996.
A memorial service was held on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 3:30 p.m., at the Barnes home at 3 Flye Point Rd. in Brooklin. According to his wife, “We will toast him with chocolate milkshakes – his favorite food!”
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his honor to the Peninsula Ambulance Corps, Water St., Blue Hill, ME 04614.