INSEAD mourns the passing of first dean and business education pioneer


It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Olivier Giscard d'Estaing, one of the INSEAD founders and a pioneering force in business education. Olivier was a leader and innovator, a pioneer in management education and a dear member of our INSEAD family.

As well as helping found the school, Olivier was appointed as Director of Studies shortly after it was established, making him the first Dean of INSEAD. His approach to business education truly laid the foundation for the INSEAD that we know today.

Olivier joined the INSEAD project when the school was still just an idea of Georges Doriot, the first French graduate of Harvard Business School and its first French professor. It was while attending HBS that Olivier first met Doriot. In the summer of 1956, the two connected in Paris to discuss Doriot’s idea.

Doriot envisioned a business school in France defined by academic rigour and relevance, diversity, independence, entrepreneurial spirit and a closeness to business. At the time, Olivier was teaching at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques where he had established their first business course. As a firm believer in management education, he jumped at the chance to help make this new vision a reality.

Olivier was the architect of the original INSEAD experience. He was instrumental in almost every facet of turning the vision into a reality – developing operational procedures and course outlines; finding and securing facilities; and recruiting top faculty talent and high-calibre students. And he did all this in the 14 months between his appointment as Director of Studies and the first day of class. On the eve of that first day, Olivier cabled Doriot to inform him, “Our classroom is ready, our library and cases are all set.”

These priorities still apply to the INSEAD of today. Our classroom is ready with world-class faculty and the best and brightest students. Our library ranks among the very best in the world and we share knowledge to guide leaders. The school is renowned for the quality and insight of our faculty’s research and cases. This pursuit of academic excellence and mission to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society is Olivier’s legacy.

Olivier was an innovator who found creative solutions to build a world-class educational institution and ensure INSEAD financial security during the early years of the school. Described as “INSEAD’s most valuable asset,” by Doriot’s assistant George von Peterffy, he served as Dean until 1963, when he was appointed Director General.

In 1966, he joined the Board of Directors and served as Vice-Chairman from 1969 until 1994. Since then, Olivier remained actively involved in the school and an enduring inspiration to our students and alumni community.

INSEAD was just one of Olivier’s main legacies. He served as a member of the French Parliament from 1968 to 1973. He was vice-chairman of the European Movement from 1978 to 1992 and a member of the Conseil Économique et Social de France from 1994 to 1999. He authored six books and was widely published in academic and parliamentary journals.

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of the first Dean of INSEAD. Olivier Giscard d’Estaing stepped up as an innovator and an educator in a singular moment in history. In doing so, he established a business school and a community unlike any other. Through INSEAD, his legacy will live on.



  • 1958-1959 Appointed director of studies. It was just 14 months from taking on that role to welcoming the first batch of MBA students to Fontainebleau
  • 1959-1963 Olivier was the first Dean of INSEAD
  • 1963-1966 Director General of INSEAD
  • 1966, he joined the INSEAD Board of Directors
  • 1969-1994 served as Vice-Chairman of INSEAD Board of Directors


Other achievements

  • 1951 MBA from Harvard Business School
  • 1968 to 1973 Member of French Parliament for 5th constituency of Alpes Maritimes
  • 1978 to 1992 Vice-chairman of the European Movement
  • 1994 to 1999 Member of the Conseil Économique et Social de France
  • Honorary councillor of the World Future Council
  • For many years he was a board member of several international corporations such as IBM, Johnson and Generali and an advisor of CEOs of French industrial corporations such as Saint Gobain and Philips
  • Authored six books and was widely published on academic and parliamentary journals
  • Established first business course at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques



  • Officer in the National Order of the Legion of Honour
  • Commander of the Order of King Leopold (Belgium)
  • Commander of the National Order of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ivory Coast and Tunisia
  • Golden Medal of Europe
  • Honorary Doctor of KIMEP University (Kazakhstan)





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