Retail teaching legend Fred Hurwitz retired from Smelly College of Business


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite being born into a retail family and working in business for nearly two decades, Fred Hurwitz has found his greatest reward in teaching hundreds of students the basics of retail, marketing and business.

“I don’t like to teach something theoretically,” said Hurvitz, a marketing instructor and Cole’s retail studies practice professor who will retire at the end of 2022. I like to give examples to my students, and I think that some of these examples they have lived, understood and appreciated more.

His teaching career began in In the late 1970s, he carried a full class load before assuming a full-time faculty position in 1988 as an assistant professor at Smel.

Along the way, he estimated that 50,000 to 60,000 students passed his education in the 45 years he taught. “I’m proud to teach so many different students,” he said.

He also helped develop and run the Jacobs Fellows program for exceptional seniors. The capital event was taking them to the National Retail Federation’s annual trade show in New York City to present case studies and learn more about the industry.

“I believe the most rewarding part of teaching is seeing some of the students I teach develop amazing careers,” Hurwitz said.

“Fred is probably one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” said Robert Novak, associate professor of supply chain management.

“He has a great sense of humor. He used to stop by my office and we would always chat and have a good laugh about something,” Novak added. “He has a very good heart and a desire to teach his students, which I respect very much.”

Deep retail roots

Hervitz’s father opened Hurn’s Men’s Store in State College the year his son was born. The first store is centrally located on College Street, across from Old Main.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Penn State in 1969, Hurwitz began his MBA at SUNY Buffalo before deciding to work at Price Waterhouse in New York City.

However, two days before he was due to start, his father had emergency cancer surgery and his son asked him to take over the family’s retail and apartment buildings. Within a year, his father died, and Hurwitz — then 23 — stayed in state college and pursued an MBA at Penn State in 1983 while working full-time.

Soon after, Hurwitz was approached by golfing buddy and Penn State Business Department Chair H. Leigh “Buck” Matthews. He wanted to know if Hurvitz wanted to teach retail. he was.

The next department chair, Pete Benton, asked if he wanted to teach more — specifically a course in distribution and then an introduction to marketing. He did. In the year By the late 1970s he was an assistant professor with a full course load.

“I was doing all this, doing the trades,” Hurwitz recalled. “I never thought my career would be teaching.”

Over the years, he has operated several retail operations, including three men’s clothing stores, a newsstand/smoke shop, a pants and top store, and men’s and women’s clothing stores in Lewistown. Even the owner, Jan, started a women’s/junior’s shop called Spirit, specializing in dance and aerobics clothing.

He later moved out of retail and into manufacturing. The piezo ceramic manufacturing company was the first; A few years later it was bought by a customer. He then started an injection molding plastics company. In 1989, Harvitz was bought out by his partner so he could focus solely on teaching.

Practical experience

Over the years, through relationships with retail organizations and observations of the marketplace, Hurvitz has shown how the business has changed and how new fields, such as retail analytics, have changed the industry.

“When I started, we sat back in our Zurich chairs, but now there’s no reason to do that,” he said, adding that good data can help retail businesses succeed. My students don’t even know who Woolworths is, so the field is interesting in that way.

John Grosso, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Penn State in 1989, is Kohl’s executive vice president and director of store operations. He met Hurvitz 15 years ago when he began serving on Smel’s board of visitors and wanted to meet with a retail professor to get Kohl’s retail message to students.

“Our common goal is how do you give real-world, real-world 101 to students with the right approach and approach,” said Grosso, who has often spoken to Hurwitz’s classes about Kohl’s and the industry. “I also wanted to use these conversations as a recruiting tool and break down some of the stereotypes about retail because it has changed and evolved so much.”

Hurwitz’s dedication to the field has earned him the title of Kohl’s Practice Professor of Retail Studies.

“You only have to talk to Fred for a couple of minutes and the authenticity comes out immediately,” Grosso said. “It was a very easy decision.”

Hans Baumgartner, chaired professor of marketing and former chair of the marketing department, recalled Hurwitz tapping him to teach various classes.

“Fred’s teaching specialties were retail and services marketing, but he was a jack of all trades and could teach any course,” he said. For example, when we had to find someone to teach a course at the last minute, Fred was always willing to help. His hands-on experience in retailing and his extensive contacts in the retail industry have been invaluable to generations of students looking to build a career in retailing.

Hurvitz is also well-liked, has many friends, and has been a key community leader for years, said Richard Bard, Horvitz’s friend of five decades and chair of Smel’s Board of Visitors.

“Today is special because he spent his youth, career and marriage in one community,” said Bard, founder and CEO of Bard Capital Group LLC, a private equity investment firm with offices in Colorado. “In that role he is leading various retail and other businesses.”

“Marketing and retail are changing disciplines influenced by social media and technology. Having a professor who is ‘current’ and has real experience in retail was a unique value to this curriculum for Smil,” added Bard.

His legacy

Among the many students who helped Hurvitz with his retail career was ALDI Inc. Center Valley Division Director of Warehouse Operations Cara (Benson) Harvey, who has taken over two retail divisions with Hurwitz.

“He had a passion for retail. Harvey, who graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, will celebrate 30 years with ALDI in 2023 and has been a frequent visitor to Hurvitz’s classrooms over the years. “I was able to use the purchasing information Fred shared in class in my role as purchasing director.”

Robin Stevens, director of Wall Street initiatives in the Finance Department, was instrumental in naming Hurwitz the Kohl’s Practice Professor of Retail Research.

“Fred is a great guy who mostly flies under the radar, but he deserves to be recognized and rewarded for his contributions to the college and his reputation among employers and students,” Stevens said. “He was honored by the Cole Award. It means that the world will respect him among his peers. He loved teaching and helping to inspire young students.

In addition, close relationships with several retailers, including Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s, are invaluable in serving Smale students, she added.

“He has made lifelong friendships with some employers, which is a testament to his commitment and how valued he is among employers,” Stevens said. “He knows the students well, motivates them to work for these companies, and helps them prepare for internships and encourages them along the way. This kind of influence is very important to employers when they want to hire the best and the best. And you can count on Fred to train them properly.”

Current marketing department chair Meg Meloy praised Hurvitz for being part of the Smel faculty apparatus for decades. “His work in the department to introduce new programs that enhance retail offerings has influenced a generation (or two) of students,” she said.

She praised Harvitz’s role in developing and managing the Jacobs Fellows Program, named after Melvin Jacobs, a Penn State graduate and chairman and CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Meloy said that even when she was a Cornell graduate student in the 1990s, Hurwitz was always relevant in a video message at his retirement party. Hurwitz explains that the BA 303 Marketing class allowed her to gather insights from students about their decision-making processes.

“The theme of continuing to gather insights in your classroom is the same for future Smale graduate students,” she said. “You have supported the educational mission of all Smale students.”

She added, “You were an integral part of the faculty and will be missed. Enjoy your retirement.

What’s next?

Hurwitz said he looks forward to playing golf three or four days a week, but he wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to be an expert witness for a retail-focused national civil case.

Their first case occurred years ago when an 85-year-old woman was injured by a customer who stamped for Cabbage Patch toys on sale after being complimented by Kmart. He testified to the plaintiff how other retailers safely manage the flow of customers during sales of in-demand products. The woman won the case.

“If I don’t believe in the cause, I won’t take the case,” he said.



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