Tepper professor dies

Professor John “Jack” Reinecke Thorne died Feb. 13 at the age of 81 while vacationing with his wife, Helen, in the Cayman Islands. Thorne was a key founder of the entrepreneurship program at the Tepper School of Business and served as the David T. and Lindsay J. Morgenthaler Emeritus Professor of Entrepreneurship until 2005.

Thorne, born March 25, 1926, was a Pittsburgh native and a pioneer in the teaching of entrepreneurship. After graduating with the first class of Carnegie Mellon’s Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA), Thorne moved to California to work for the computer software company Litton, and then started his own computer hardware company, Scionics. In 1972, Richard Cyert, then the dean of GSIA, asked Thorne to return to teach a course in entrepreneurship, according to the Carnegie Mellon website.

“Jack Thorne was a pioneer in the teaching of entrepreneurship at the university level, and helped to define the standard curriculum for that discipline. His influence spread far beyond Carnegie Mellon and is now global in scope,” said Thomas Emerson, the current holder of the David T. and Lindsay J. Morgenthaler Chair in Entrepreneurship.

Thorne’s passion for entrepreneurship was apparent not only through his teaching, but also through the local programs that he started to work with entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh. Thorne was the director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon, and he formed the Enterprise Corporation for entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh, which eventually merged into Innovation Works, a local economic group that helps to support entrepreneurial growth, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“Jack was a pioneer in educating entrepreneurs at Carnegie Mellon and also in building an infrastructure in the community and the university to support entrepreneurial education and growth,” said Arthur A. Boni, director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and also the John R. Thorne Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business. “He was able to assemble a team and a loyal group of supporters necessary to turn his vision into reality.”

In addition to being able to garner support to turn his visions into reality, Thorne was also skilled in getting the funds necessary for his many projects. He secured a $1 million donation from Donald H. Jones and from David T. and Lindsay J. Morgenthaler to form the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and the Morgenthaler Chair in Entrepreneurship, respectively. He also secured a $1.5 million donation from Gerald E. McGinnis to form the McGinnis Chair in Entrepreneurship and to endow the McGinnis Venture Competition at Carnegie Mellon, according to the Carnegie Mellon website.

“Jack was successful since he lived what he taught his students — have a vision and be perseverant in pursuit of that vision even though you may face rejection,” Boni said.

Thorne was not only a successful entrepreneur, but also someone who genuinely felt passionate about what he did and shared that passion with all of his students.

“I remember traveling with Jack several years ago to California for several events with Tepper alumni,” said Steve Sharratt, associate dean of advancement at the Tepper School of Business. “I’ve worked in higher education for about 20 years, and I have never experienced such an outpouring of affection and gratitude towards a former teacher than our alumni felt for Jack.

“Alumni felt that Jack had changed their lives, giving them the encouragement and tools they needed to launch businesses and careers. Jack was a gifted teacher, but more than that, he really cared passionately about his students.”

About three years ago, one of Thorne’s former students, Sarosh D. Kumana, now the president of Pacific Investment Properties in San Francisco, donated a statue in Thorne’s honor that now stands on display on the first floor of Posner Hall. The statue is called “The Self-Made Man” — a man who is carving his own body out of a block of stone.

“This is the gift Jack left his students — the ability to carve out their own destiny, to make great careers for themselves,” Sharratt said.

Thorne was also active in his local community, serving on the boards of the Ligonier Fellowship Committee as well as the Powdermill Nature Reserve Committee. He also assisted his first wife, Barbara, in forming the Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsburgh.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a future date.