BackTalk: David Audretsch C’76

Distinguished Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Director, SPEA International Office | Ameritech Chair of Economic Development Director, SPEA’s Institute for Development Strategies

The late Drew Professor Jerome Cranmer was the man who inspired me to go on the course that I have. As a freshman I took his class in the History of Economic Thought. It was his relationship to the world of ideas that captured my energy, my commitment. I liked the way he took ideas
seriously and engaged them.

At Drew, rather than look for everything I needed to grow and move ahead in one person, I diversified my portfolio in a way. In terms of actually helping with practical, day-to-day work, Don Cole, an economics professor, was a very influential mentor for me.

I also had a great mentor in physics and astronomy, Bob Fenstermacher. That was a kind of mentoring about life as a student, just how to be in the world, how to grow in the world.

I don’t know if I would say I learned to have mentors at Drew. But it was certainly galvanized at Drew. When I went to graduate school, I was aware this was something I needed. I got a mentor who guided me through the PhD program.

I even have a mentor now at my current job—Charles Bonser, the founding dean of the School of Public Policy at Indiana University. When I’ve had certain serious problems, critical decisions to make, either on a personal or professional level, I’ll go to him.

There’s a big link between entrepreneurship and mentorship. In the end, a big component of entrepreneurship is kind of a human element, an element of intuition and judgment that goes beyond what you can codify or write down or create an algorithm for.

I’m a member of The Academy of Management, an organization of management professors. Last year I won the Entrepreneurship Mentor Award. It’s kind of a lifetime achievement for mentorship.

The mentor award in a way reflects a kind of value, a way of looking at life, that says this is the way to live. Whether in a personal sense or professional sense, this is a way to relate to other people. It’s kind of a code.

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