Please remember in your prayers Dr. Eugene R. Kotz, the founding dean of the University of St. Thomas’ graduate business programs. He died at his home in West St. Paul Wednesday morning, April 5, at age 71.
An educator with an entrepreneurial spirit, Kotz was known for developing business programs that incorporated theoretical, practical and ethical components, as well as evening and weekend programs for students already in the workplace.
He was St. Thomas’ first graduate business dean in 1974, when 76 students enrolled in the MBA program. Today, the St. Thomas Graduate School of Business is the nation’s fourth largest and enrolls 3,022 students.
Kotz suffered for many years from a rare autoimmune disease, Wegener’s granulomatosis. A professor or school administrator for much of his career, Kotz retired from the classroom in 1991 because of his illness.
He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Rita; three sons, Paul, St. Paul, Tom, West St. Paul, Gene, Shakopee; and a daughter, Keri, St. Paul.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 7, at Willwerscheid & Peters Mortuary, 1167 Grand Ave. The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Cathedral of St. Paul, 239 Selby Ave.
Kotz was born July 22, 1928, and attended grade school and high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served in the Navy from 1946 to 1949; earned his bachelor’s in economics and philosophy, and master’s in labor economics, both at St. Louis University; and earned his doctorate in management at the University of Cincinnati. He also studied for the priesthood and was a member of the Jesuits from 1951 to 1961.
After working as a personnel executive in the early 60s, Kotz established and chaired the Department of Business Administration at Sacred Heart College in Wichita, Kansas. He went on to teach at Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, and Canisius College, New York, where he eventually became dean of the School of Business Administration.
He came to St. Thomas in 1974 to establish and lead the university’s MBA program. Within 10 years, graduate business enrollment at St. Thomas reached 1,335, and he left the university in 1984 to establish the Kotz Graduate School of Management. Headquartered in St. Paul’s Energy Park, the school was designed especially for experienced, seasoned business managers.
Kotz and his graduate business program returned to the St. Thomas Graduate School of Business in 1989. He continued to teach for two years until illness forced him to retire. His program, known today as the Executive MBA Program, continues to flourish and enrolls more than 200 students.
Bill Monson, a co-director of the program who worked closely with Kotz for more than a decade, said that while he was a visionary administrator who identified and developed graduate business programs for older students, Kotz also was a gifted teacher who “profoundly affected the lives of hundreds of students.
“With his Jesuit background, Gene was well-schooled in philosophy and theory, but he was very pragmatic. Students in his business classes could expect to hear quotes from Aristotle and Aquinas,” Monson said. “He embodied one of the hallmarks of the Graduate School of Business, to integrate the philosophical and the practical.
“He returned to St. Thomas because the university meant so much to him,” Monson said. “His passion was to help students improve their performance and the performance of their companies."
Kotz also was a pioneer in requiring courses in ethics to be part of the MBA curriculum. “That was way out in front back in the ’80s,” Monson said. “His emphasis on ethics has continued to grow and be an important component in today’s Graduate School of Business.”