B-School Life

A Tale of Two Whartons


The newly named Gene and Joyce Wharton School of Business and Information Technology

Photograph courtesy of Ohio Valley University

The newly named Gene and Joyce Wharton School of Business and Information Technology

Attention Whartonites: It may be time to update your résumés and specify that you got your MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, because there are now two business schools with that name.

Ohio Valley University, a Christian liberal arts school near Parkersburg, West Virginia, recently renamed its business school in honor of long-time supporters Gene and Joyce Wharton, according to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. The full name—the Gene and Joyce Wharton School of Business and Information Technology—now appears on a brass plaque on the Stotts Administration Building.

The Whartons’ association with the school dates to 1979, when Gene Wharton hired two Ohio Valley students for jobs at his local Burger King franchise, which has since grown to 24 restaurants with 800 employees, the paper said. Gene Wharton has been an Ohio Valley trustee since 1981 and two of the couple’s three children graduated from the university.

That other Wharton had its name bestowed in 1881 by the American industrialist Joseph Wharton when he established the world’s first collegiate school of business. Joy Jones, the dean of the Ohio Valley business school, said she did not know if Gene and Joyce Wharton are related to Joseph Wharton.

The Penn school has a reputation for jealously guarding the Wharton brand. Earlier this year, it sued the Wharton Business Foundation, an Internet marketing company in Beverly Hills, Calif., alleging unauthorized use of the Wharton trademark. Neither side would comment about the dispute at the time, but the foundation’s web site is no longer online at the whartonbusinessfoundation.com. Wharton declined comment on the status of the dispute.

Is Wharton planning to take action against the Ohio Valley business school? Wharton spokesman Peter Winicov declined to comment, but Jones said her school hasn’t been contacted by Wharton yet, and doesn’t expect to be. “We do not ever plan to shorten the name, but will always use ‘Gene and Joyce Wharton School of Business and IT,’” she explained.

The argument Penn made in its earlier lawsuit was that Wharton and the Wharton Business Foundation were in the same business: business education. The same can be said for Wharton and the Ohio Valley business school. Ohio Valley’s b-school, like Wharton, offers undergraduate business degrees, but not an MBA.

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Louis_lavelle
Lavelle is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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