What I recall the most about my Krannert years was the passion with which Frank, Mike and others taught us. The PhD seminar would be held in the evening at Frank’s home basement. It thus became known as the basement seminar. We would drink a lot of coffee from a huge electric pot. We, as Frank’s students, had a coffee mug made years later with the inscription in Frank’s own handwriting “Frank’s Basement.”

I also learned American English at Purdue. Since I was 11, I had studied English. But this was written English, grammar. I was not well-prepared for the American accent. My first class at Krannert was the MBA marketing class, very interactive, with case discussions. I was a bit lost, to say the least. The rapid-fire exchanges between professor and students were too much for me. I wisely sat in the back of the class and did not draw attention to myself. I basically understood nothing at first. I took an engineering approach to the problem of tuning my ears to this rather barbarian language that was used.

Abel Jeuland

Abel Jeuland at the 2011 Krannert Leadership Speakers Series. (Photo by Mark Simons)

The first week I noticed that one sentence came up regularly, but could not really decipher it. Because it came up regularly, I decided it must have been important. The task was to spot it as soon as it was started and through systematic intense pattern recognition, progressively discover it. It did not help that the instructor was Charles King, from the state of Georgia. I comforted myself in thinking that it would be hard for Americans to learn French from someone from Marseilles or Bordeaux instead of Paris. I was so focused on the pattern recognition task that I would end with a big headache at the end of each class. But I made slow and steady progress on that important sentence.

At first there was only the “u” sound followed by the “a” sound toward its beginning, then “u” sound again in the middle and the “on” and “ee” sounds toward the end. After two weeks at least, “u” became “you”, “a” became “bak” and “bark”, “u” became “up” and “on” and “ee” became “wrong” and “tree.” A few more weeks and finally I discovered, “You’re barking up the wrong tree” (in a Southern accent!).

I managed a B in this class, only because the exam was a multiple choice one: a great advantage for an engineer who can use logic to choose answers. I don’t recall learning anything about marketing in the class but can now report that I teach Marketing Strategy at the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago, using the case method. I have a lot of opportunities to say, “You’re barking up the wrong tree” (with a French accent!).

Purdue also allowed me to meet my future wife, Maretta: What could be wrong about a gal from Kansas studying child development at Purdue? We met when I held a French conversation at the International House. We had three children who are now an Episcopalian chaplain, a clinical psychologist and an engineer of environmental studies, who, in turn, have given us three grandsons.

Let me conclude with sincere thanks to all who helped me on this journey. It is a great honor to be among the distinguished alumni of Krannert and Purdue. This institution has given me so much, and I hope I have returned some of these gifts to my professional colleagues and to my students.

Abel P. Jeuland, the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, was presented with the John S. Day Distinguished Alumni Academic Service Award in November at the Krannert Leadership Speakers Series. He was one of five individuals honored at the event, which was keynoted by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

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