Ralph passed away last week. I am staring unhappily at those words even as I write them. You can read the school's official note about Ralph at this link.
My memories of Ralph go back a long way. An accomplished academic, he published a truly groundbreaking piece of work on corporate venturing, finding that a typical new manufactured product took seven years from concept to commercial launch. It was one of the first empirical pieces to ever tackle that question. So I obviously cited him in my later work on corporate ventures. He left Academia to take a number of managerial jobs, most recently at Becton Dickinson. While he was there, I had the chance to interview him about some work that we were doing on multi-market maneuvering and he was generous with his time and most thoughtful.
When he was considering joining Columbia, I was one of the faculty he spoke to. I remember discussing the book, "Built To Last" and what our students were like. Ralph was mesmerizing in the classroom – he kindly let me sit in as I was just beginning to learn to teach – and it was incredibly useful to learn from such a master. He was always generous with his time and willing to take his colleagues' issues seriously.
It is a tremendous loss, and he will be deeply missed.