Skip to main content

Steven Appelbaum (1941-2024): ‘A shining example of dedicated academic service’

John Molson School colleagues and friends remember the long-time professor, former dean and founder of the EMBA and MSc programs
July 3, 2024

Smiling man with short, curly gray hair and a beard, wearing a black, pin-striped suit and a tie. Steven Appelbaum in 2006.

Steven Appelbaum, a Concordia distinguished professor emeritus of management whose foresight and innovative thinking helped propel the John Molson School of Business into its current position as a leading Canadian institution, passed away in Montreal on June 7.

“Steven did so much for John Molson and for management education. He filled many roles at Concordia over his long career and contributed profoundly to our university,” says Anne-Marie Croteau, dean of the John Molson School.

“He was a prolific and exceptional researcher, a kind and committed teacher and stood as a shining example of dedicated academic service.”

Appelbaum arrived at Concordia in 1979 and spent the next 44 years with the Department of Management, until his retirement in 2023. During his career, he served as department chair and then dean of the faculty from 1983 to 1990.

EMBA pioneer

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Appelbaum earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from Temple University and an MA in social science from St. Joseph’s University, both in his hometown. He then headed north to the University of Ottawa to earn a PhD in organizational behaviour.

After beginning his academic career in the United States, Appelbaum returned to Canada in 1979 to join Concordia as a faculty member at what was then known as the Faculty of Commerce and Administration. He quickly moved into added administrative roles.

As dean of the business school, Appelbaum was instrumental in founding the Executive MBA program, the first of its kind in Quebec, in 1985.

“There was pushback from the faculty’s internal community, many of whom felt the program would never work, was too expensive and too specific,” he recalled to Concordia University Magazine in 2021. “My perspective was that Canadians will invest in quality education, and this is what we can offer them.”

Time proved Appelbaum correct, and the EMBA is still going strong nearly 40 years later. In 2024, CEO Magazine’s Global EMBA Rankings rated the John Molson School program as number two in Canada and number 30 in the world.

As dean, Appelbaum also introduced the John Molson School’s research-based MSc programs.

His career was filled with many other achievements and accolades. Among them, Appelbaum was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1990 and won John Molson School Outstanding Teaching Awards in 1994 and 1999.

Appelbaum also stood out as an organizational behaviour researcher. He served as a Concordia University Research Chair from 2002 to 2009, authored or co-authored 12 successful textbooks and more than 150 scholarly articles. He was also appointed to several academic journals’ editorial advisory boards.

Concordia inducted Appelbaum into the Provost Circle of Distinction in 2012 and recognized his media impact at the 2023 President’s Media Outreach Awards.

Putting his research into practice, Appelbaum also provided professional consulting services focusing on such managerial areas as organizational development, team building and management training to local and international businesses.

‘A dedicated teacher, productive scholar and engaged consultant’

Seth Spain, associate professor and chair of the Department of Management, knew Appelbaum since 2011. “I met him at my first — of three! — job interviews at Concordia. He was always very willing to meet the job candidates,” he recalls.

“So, it was with some feelings of irony that I wrote the Department of Management’s letter of support for Steve to be awarded distinguished professor emeritus status. In doing so, one thing became exceedingly clear — how deep the footprints Steve leaves on the department, on the John Molson School and on Concordia University,” Spain adds.

“He’s been chair of the department and dean of the faculty. He’s served on the Board. He founded the Master of Science program and the Executive MBA. He helped forge the space we all reside in now. And in doing so, he remained always a dedicated teacher, productive scholar and engaged consultant,” Spain says.

“There are not a lot of professors around like Steve Appelbaum.”

Management lecturer Karim Boulos, MBA 02, knew Appelbaum for more than two decades.

“I met Steve over 20 years ago when I was an MBA student. He was a larger-than-life kind of person and, even though I never had him as a professor, he always made time to speak with me and my fellow students and made himself available to help with MBA Society activities,” Boulos says.

“Fast-forward two years, Steve and I worked together when he delivered executive education programs to our corporate clients and to the Cree community as part of the John Molson Executive Centre. He always went above and beyond my — and our clients’ — expectations, and I always appreciated him for that,” he adds.

“The more we worked together, the more I considered Steve a friend.”

After holding several administrative positions at the John Molson School, Boulos has been a lecturer since 2014.

“When Steve retired, I was assigned to teach ‘his’ course in the MBA program. And, true to form, he provided me with all his materials, notes and exercises to help make my job easier,” he says. 

“I can’t say enough about Steve as a professor, a colleague, a mentor and as a friend. I will miss him dearly.”

Appelbaum was a passionate athlete and sports fan. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Shapiro, a longstanding fellow management faculty member, and his children and granddaughter.

A memorial service for Steven Appelbaum will be held in the Loyola Chapel (Concordia University), 7141 Sherbrooke Street W., at the end of the summer. Watch for an announcement with more details.



Back to top

© Concordia University