Honorary degree citation - Stafford Beer*
By: P. David Mitchell, June 1988
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Stafford Beer, a distinguished Scholar, businessman, management consultant, professor and poet.
An international authority and consultant in the science of organization, Stafford Beer was a pioneer in automation, Operational Research, Cybernetics, and Artificial Intelligence. He developed the firt cybernetic model and computer simulation of a company (which greatly increased productivity) and went on to create one of Europe’s leading management consulting firms. From there he moved into higher management in the world’s largest publishing empire. After a career in which he had held every level of post up to Managing Director, company Director and Chairman of the Board, he quit to establish a new career as a indepedent consultant and university teacher.
Instrumental in establishing one university department, adjunct or visiting professor in several universities in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Canada, and external examiner for many doctorates, Stafford Beer is anomalous -- he lacks a university degree.
He left university after one year to join the British Army toward the end of World War II. Posted to India, he studied Vedantic Philosophy, began to practice, (and later to teach) Yoga, and became a Tertiary of the Order of Franciscans. Meanwhile he was in transit from Staff Captain (Intelligence) in the Gurkhas, throught Army Psychologist and Chief of Personnel Selection to researcher. He was only 22 when he left the army to begin his business career.
Even though he is a university dropout, Stafford Beer is the Preeminent authority on the Cybernetics of organization, he is a Fellow of at least a dozen learned societes and has held the presidency of several. He has received many honours, pretigious prizes and medals for his innovations and publications. An he has been consultant and advisor to many international organizations, government agencies and large corporations in Canada and abroad.
Stafford Beer is a prolific writer. He has published twelve books (in ten languages) and over 200 papers or articles and has presented hundreds of papers to scholarly and professional meetings. But he has not neglected the arts. He is a published poet and a major broadcast of some of his poems was carried on the CBC after his Massey Lectures (on the theme, “Designing Freedom”. Fred Cogswell, noted publisher of Fiddlehead Press, campared his handling of language to poets as diverse as Robert Browning, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. And the paintings of this Renaissance man have been exhibited in three countries.
In short, his intellectual, cultural and professional contributions have touched a wide variety of disciplines and organizations and have incluenced people in many countries. In honouring him one honours people who share his vision of personal responsibitlity for, and commitment to, lifelong learning, self-development and improving organizations and government. His achievements provide inspiration for our graduates. Like them, he is owed academic recognition for his scholarship. The spurious debt is here discharged.
Mr. Chancellor, it is therefore a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Stafford Beer, that you may confer on hime the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.