A celebrated scholar of globalization, a longtime professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, a poet and a painter, Dr. Howard V. Perlmutter died November 8, 2011, at the age of 86. The cause of death was brain trauma from a fall.
Howard Victor Perlmutter was born in Framingham, MA. He received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (Tau Beta Pi) from MIT, and his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Kansas. He retired from Wharton Business School in 1996.
Dr. Perlmutter was considered a pioneer and a visionary, who more than 30 years ago correctly mapped out the future development of multinational institutions, including corporations, governments and universities. His seminal 1972 paper "The Multinational Firm and the Future," published in the Annals of Political and Social Science, remains widely cited as the foundation for globalization scholarship. This and other contributions earned Dr. Perlmutter a spot in Wharton Alumni Magazine's 2007 issue of 125 Influential People and Ideas.
Dr. Perlmutter's career at Wharton began in 1969. During his tenure he assumed a variety of positions, from innovative scholar and respected teacher to administrator and leader. In his many years at Wharton, Dr. Perlmutter introduced teaching and research on the global social structure of multinational enterprise and organizations. He was the founder and director of the Worldwide Institutions Research Center and chairman of the Multinational Enterprise Unit. Dr. Perlmutter was also a favorite among students, winning numerous awards for distinguished teaching.
David Heenan, former student and Wharton colleague and currently Georgetown professor, recalled, "Howard was absolutely unequalled in resolving complex organizational problems in multicultural settings. He had a very special gift in assisting highly diverse cultures. His colleagues called him 'the Pearl' for his magical abilities in speaking to small groups."
But Dr. Perlmutter's work and fame extended well beyond Wharton and the United States. While a Fulbright Scholar at the Sorbonne in Paris, Dr. Perlmutter introduced the study of group dynamics. He was also a visiting professor at the Stockholm School of Economics and professor at the IMD Business School in Switzerland. His expertise also took him north of the US border where he served as an adviser to the Canadian government. In the United States, Dr. Perlmutter assisted various departments within the federal government, the World Health Organization, numerous firms, universities and municipalities.
In addition to scholarly journal article publication, Dr. Perlmutter's work was featured in major newspapers and at various international conferences and forums. He wrote on a variety of topics related to global civilization and multinational organizations, from renewable energy issues and ethics to global terrorism. In 2007, he pondered the realities of the post-September 11 era, underlining the central role of dialogue in the globalized world: "It's a race against time; we have to decide whether we are going to have a first global civilization ... or will we become the last global civilization - will our inability to cooperate and connect destroy our world?"
Dr. Perlmutter's love for and knowledge of global issues also seeped into his art. A published author of three volumes of poetry, Dr. Perlmutter took his readers on a voyage through various countries and emotions in the 2004 West-East Duet: I. Visions of Ithaka II. Not Quite Haiku, comprised of two books of poems. A review of the collection by Barnes & Noble reads, "...the reader is invited to search for the poetic tapestry underlying what he [Perlmutter] considers to be the newly emergent First Global Civilization." In May 2011, Dr. Perlmutter was invited to talk about his poems and paintings at the Gallery at Norumbega Point in Weston, MA. A story in a Weston newspaper described Dr. Perlmutter's art as "boldly colored, abstract and allegorical images."
Dr. Perlmutter is survived by his wife, Dr. Fotini Perlmutter; his son, David and his wife, Christie; two sisters, Bernice and her husband, David and Lucille and her husband, Edward; two granddaughters, Marika and Miranda; and numerous nieces and nephews.