John Altman cuts the ribbon outside the newly named Institute for Entrepreneurship
John Altman cuts the ribbon outside the newly named Institute for Entrepreneurship Photo: Jay Murdock
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John Altman honored as Institute for Entrepreneurship named for him

Altman associated with Miami for nearly 60 years

Like many momentous events, John Altman’s life changed with a phone call. “It was an early summer afternoon in 1992 when Dr. James Robeson, then dean of Miami’s business school, called and asked me how my retirement was going. I told him my golf game was lousy, getting worse, and I was bored. To my surprise, he said ‘Why don’t you come back to Oxford and give me a hand?’” Altman recalled. “’Teach what?’ I asked. ‘I’ve only taught second-year ancient Greek in seminary.’ Jim said, ‘I want you to teach the same thing here, but we’ll call it entrepreneurship.’”

That started a decades-long relationship between Altman and what would become the Farmer School of Business, culminating in the school’s Institute for Entrepreneurship being named for Altman, who has been owner, founder, and/or partner in six different businesses since graduating from Miami University in 1960.

“The start of our program was a bit like ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ It took me too long to realize it was about finite resources, a new untested discipline, and a new pig at the trough,” Altman remarked. “It was also about not doing the research and communicating to my colleagues.”

Altman said that once he began doing more research on entrepreneurship, it didn’t take long to see the depth of its impact. “Roughly $8.5 trillion of gross domestic product is generated in the entrepreneurial sector, not to mention creating jobs as the Fortune 1000 was self-destructing,” he explained. “Only 18,500 of our six billion American businesses are considered large, many of them public, many of them were started by one or two persons. In roughly 22 million individually-run small businesses, you see the magnitude of entrepreneurship.”

“As time went by, I realized I had fallen in love with teaching. My life soon centered on my students. I taught summers in Luxembourg and seminars in Singapore,” Altman said. “A senior Fulbright allowed me to preach the gospel of entrepreneurship worldwide. Many of my students went on to create hundreds of exciting businesses including Skype, begin their own families, and visit us every year at Lake Tahoe.”

“My Miami years have come full circle, as 59 years of service to my alma mater ceremoniously ends today and on our board of trustees next month. Never have I served with so many who practice the mantra of Miami first,” Altman said. “I hope people will always remember that this world-class Ohio Center of Excellence, this John W Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship, was always and so remains a team effort. I started with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ as a metaphor for our startup. My part was simple -- I took the beach. When my days of battle come to an end, perhaps my epitaph might read like many gathered here this evening, ‘A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence will stop.’”

Check out more images from the event here

John Altman smiling

John and his wife smile while watching a video after the ceremony

John and Marc Rubin look at a photo of what the bench in the entrepreneurship office will look like after John's face is added.