Skip to main content
In Memoriam

Raymond E. Miles

Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus

UC Berkeley
Raymond E. Miles was professor emeritus and former dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, who had a deep and lasting impact on the Haas campus and community. He passed away on May 13, 2019, in Albany, CA, at the age of 86.

Miles was born on November 2, 1932, and grew up in Cleburne, TX, a town with a history of labor and agricultural protest. He earned degrees in journalism and English at the University of North Texas (UNT), while working nights for the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad. There, he said, he learned some hard lessons about how employees should and should not be managed — lessons that sparked an early interest in management and inspired some of his later thinking as a scholar. After a stint as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to UNT for an M.B.A. He then earned a Ph.D. at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and embarked on a 50-year academic career at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 1963.

Ray married Lucile Marie Dustin in 1952, a marriage of 62 years when Lucille passed in 2014. The couple are survived by three children: Laura, Grant (himself a business school professor at the University of Maine), and Kenneth; their spouses; and seven grandchildren. Ray and Lucille were dedicated Unitarian Universalists and mainstay members of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley.

“Ray Miles helped build the fields of organizational strategy and innovation at Berkeley Haas and around the world,” said former Dean Laura Tyson. His scholarly work was in two main areas: organizational design and human resource management. He worked hard to integrate both with the then-emerging and now firmly established and hugely important interdisciplinary field of strategic management. Whereas classical schools of organizing generally aimed at finding the “one best way,” Ray and other pioneers of this school argued that structure — horizontal and vertical division of labor as well as the use of rules, standards, incentives, and leadership styles to motivate and guide employee behavior — must be closely aligned with the strategic goals of the enterprise and the contingencies posed by the business environment.

“That underlying idea of having the right strategy and structure for the market environment is still front and center of what every business school teaches in M.B.A. courses on strategy and organizational design,” said Glenn Carroll, one of Ray’s former colleagues at Haas, now on the faculty of Stanford’s Graduate School Business.

Ray’s 1978 book with former student and Haas Ph.D. Charles C. Snow, Organizational Strategy, Structure, and Process, lays out his thinking clearly and schematically. It remains a highly-cited classic in strategic management and has undergone multiple editions.

Ray was also an early contributor to the theory of “network organization,” a conceptual framework that is now a dominant paradigm for interpreting and analyzing today’s modular, decoupled, and globally-distributed forms of enterprise.

Similarly, in his pathbreaking work on human resource (HR) management, Ray stressed that HR should not be viewed merely as a “support function” as historically it was both in management practice and theory. Instead, he wrote, HR was every bit as relevant to an organization’s strategic goals and success as were the generally higher-status and better-compensated functions of finance and marketing. His 1965 Harvard Business Review article, “Human Relations or Human Resources?”, was an early exposition of these ideas.

Ray’s scholarship was mostly applied — his books and articles spoke not only to scholars but also directly to the practitioner community. He published many of his pieces in the California Management Review, the Haas School’s prestigious practitioner-oriented journal and a leading outlet for theory and practice in management innovation. In his teaching and his executive development courses, Ray stressed theoretically informed best practice and long-range strategizing. He was a big thinker who loved to open students’ eyes to the larger societal and political implications of management both in the U.S. and around the world.

A warm and outgoing personality, Ray loved to chat about issues in business and academia, and a conversation with him was bound to be an intellectual treat. He kept abreast of leading trends in global business and was full of ideas as to how they might be better managed. He was a deep believer in the social responsibilities of business: his contributions both as scholar and as leader sought to identify ways of organization and policy-making that served the interests and welfare, not only of the owners of enterprise, but of employees, customers, and the larger community as well.

Miles took on some significant leadership roles during his tenure on the faculty. He was one of a long line of Haas faculty to serve as director of the Institute of Industrial Relations (now Institute of Labor and Employment), whose founding director was former UC President Clark Kerr. Ray was instrumental in extending the mission of the institute to include human resource management in addition to its historical focus on labor relations and collective bargaining. Ray also served on several corporate boards of directors and thus had the opportunity to put his ideas about good management and corporate governance into practice.

Miles served as dean of the Berkeley’s business school, now referred to as the Haas School, from 1983 to 1990, and his impact there was lasting as well. While his decanal contributions were many, four are particularly noteworthy.

The first is the process launch for the first privately-funded buildings on the Berkeley campus, three connected buildings that remain the home of the Haas School. In 1983 the business school was bursting at the seams, crammed into Barrows Hall with several other departments. Berkeley’s chancellor was reluctant to include a new building for the school in a capital campaign. To manage the crisis, Miles expanded the school’s advisory board with dozens of business people who urged the school to raise money for a new building by itself. Miles commissioned former Berkeley architecture chair Charles Moore to design a new building on the site of the old campus hospital that could create community and serve as a bridge to the rest of the university. Moore’s elegant model, with interconnected buildings around a central courtyard and arches connecting it to campus, helped sway the administration. With the help of former dean Earl “Budd” Cheit, Miles secured what was then the largest gift in UC Berkeley’s history to build it. By the time Miles stepped down in 1990, plans were well underway for the building, which broke ground in 1992 and opened in 1995.

A second noteworthy legacy of the Miles deanship was his focus on growing the Cal Business Alumni Association (now known as the Berkeley Haas Alumni Network) into a thriving community. Miles hired the school’s first full-time development director to increase outreach to alumni. Ray’s vision of the “now” touched the aspirations of generations of alumni. This was a turning point in the alumni’s sense of affiliation.

A third legacy was Miles’ boosting the school’s academic potential and prestige. This was achieved in part by expanding the faculty: he doubled the number of endowed chairs to 24 — then about a fifth of the Berkeley campus total — recruiting such luminaries as Professor Oliver Williamson (subsequently a Nobel Laureate). Miles also built academic prestige by supporting new programs to build on the school’s unique interdisciplinary heritage and blending of research and application. He called this “theory-based professional practice.” The program in Organizational Strategy focused several disciplines’ research on strategic decisions facing organizational managers. The program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation focused on the process of developing a business plan and the broader issues of how technological and economic innovation are stimulated or stunted. And the program in International Competitiveness focused on the need for new strategies in a rapidly-changing global economy.

A fourth legacy of the Miles deanship was his deep commitment to substantive community outreach. He believed that the business school should not be an island, isolated from the community around it. In 1989, he started the Boost@BerkeleyHaas program — formerly known first as the East Bay Outreach Program, and then Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) — to bring local high school students from families that traditionally hadn’t gone to college to Haas to learn about business and entrepreneurship and get comfortable on campus. Three decades later the program serves about 140 young people annually, and the overwhelming majority go on to college.

Ray Miles was a major figure in the history of the Haas School of Business, the Berkeley campus, and the Bay Area business community. He is indeed missed.

James Lincoln
Richard Lyons
Michael Blanding