Walter Dill Scott capped off a career in investment banking, government service and corporate management by working for a quarter century as a clinical professor of strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“He was a very self-reflective and an incredibly balanced guy and was incredibly successful and had what I call self-confidence, but at the same time had genuine humility,” said former Baxter International CEO Harry Kraemer, who also is a clinical professor at Kellogg and shared an office with Scott.
Scott, 86, died of complications from lymphoma on Feb. 8 at Evanston Hospital, said his son Gordon. Scott had been a Northfield resident from 1988 until November, when he moved to Evanston.
Born in Chicago, Scott was the grandson of his namesake, Walter Dill Scott, who was Northwestern University’s president from 1920 until 1939. Scott mostly grew up in Evanston, and he moved with his family to Winnetka, where he graduated from New Trier High School.
Scott earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in 1953. He served in the Navy from 1953 until 1956, when he moved to New York and began working in consulting for Booz Allen Hamilton and attending business school in the evenings at Columbia University’s Columbia Business School.
After graduating from business school in 1958, Scott worked in investment banking in New York for Glore, Forgan & Co. He left Glore Forgan in 1965 to head up Lehman Brothers’ office in Chicago.
In 1973, Scott moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C., after President Richard M. Nixon appointed him to be an associate director of the federal Office of Management and Budget. He stayed on after Nixon’s resignation. After two years in the job, Scott moved his family to Minneapolis, where he worked from 1975 until 1980 for Pillsbury Co. as its chief financial officer.
In 1980, Scott became the CEO of IDS Financial Services, now known as Ameriprise Financial, in Minneapolis. He left the company in 1984 after its sale to American Express, and then began commuting to New Jersey, where he worked as chairman and CEO of the U.S. operations of leisure, manufacturing and property conglomerate Grand Metropolitan, which now is part of Diageo.
Always possessing a strong passion for Northwestern University, where he was chairman of Kellogg’s board of advisers, Scott in 1988 moved back to the North Shore to become Kellogg’s first clinical professor. He began teaching classes focused on corporate strategy and leadership.
“He thought it’d be great to teach a few generations of young people,” his son said. “He thought he would love teaching and he ultimately did, and he wanted to teach at Kellogg and be involved at NU.”
“He was in my mind a great example of a real value-based leader,” Kraemer said. “He was one of those guys who never forgot where he came from.”
Scott greatly enjoyed advising students and student groups, his son said.
“The piece he loved was the interaction with all the students, mentoring, providing career advice and providing advice to student groups, helping to get student groups off the ground,” his son said. “He’d also provide advice to recent graduates who wanted to launch a company or had an idea.”
Scott Smith, a former Tribune publisher and Tribune Publishing president who is a distant relation of Scott’s, serves on Kellogg’s global advisory board. He noted that Scott’s leadership course was “one of the most popular courses at Kellogg.”
“And it wasn’t something he had to do. It was kind of a next chapter in his life. He just committed himself to investing his wisdom. Plus, he kept learning for the benefit of all the Kellogg students,” Smith said.
“This is a guy who gave so much in business and gave so much in academia, and encouraging everybody to get involved in nonprofits,” Kraemer said. “He was really one of my mentors.”
Scott retired from Kellogg in 2013.
Scott sat on 15 corporate boards and the boards of 25 nonprofit organizations, his son said. He chaired the board of directors of the nonprofit group Communities in Schools Chicago, and was on the board of the nonprofit One Acre Fund, a group aimed at eradicating hunger in sub-Saharan Africa by providing individual farmers with financing and training.
Scott also served on the board of National Louis University. He later recruited Smith and Illinois first lady Diana Rauner for the university’s board.
“That was the kind of person he was,” Smith said. “Before he retired (from the board), he was going to recruit a couple successors, and that was a situation where he had a commitment to an institution in that case, and he wanted to invest in its future and do that through people.”
Smith also recalled Scott’s generosity while on the board of Communities in Schools Chicago. Smith was the founding chairman of the Chicago Public Education Fund, and Scott “was kind enough to volunteer” in 2000 that the head staff person at Communities in Schools Chicago, Janet Knupp, would be a good fit as the Chicago Public Education Fund’s first president.
“We hired Janet, and she did a great job in that role,” Smith said. “He volunteered her as a candidate, even though he knew it would be a hole to fill at Communities in Schools Chicago.”
In addition to his son, Scott is survived by his wife of 56 years, Barbara; two other sons, Tim and David; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. Feb. 18 at Winnetka Presbyterian Church, 1255 Willow Road in Winnetka.
Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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