CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 16, 2018
Forward Thinking

Supply chain community remembers influential educator and thought leader Thomas Speh

Speh passed away this April after 40-plus years of service to the field.

After a long battle with cancer, Professor Emeritus of Marketing at Miami University Thomas Speh died this past April. Speh was a renowned supply chain thought leader and educator who, among many other honors, received the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' (CSCMP) Distinguished Service Award in 2007.

Many in the supply chain community are taking steps to remember and commemorate Speh's life and work, including holding a memorial service on June 4 at the Marcum Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Over the course of his career, Speh published more than 50 articles, co-wrote two textbooks, led numerous research initiatives, and served as president of both CSCMP and the Warehousing Education and Research Council. He taught logistics and supply chain management courses for more than 40 years.

"Tom Speh had a huge impact on our discipline, from his pioneering work in warehousing to his broadly based efforts in education," said Rick Blasgen, CEO of CSCMP. "Tom advanced our profession in ways that will continue to be felt for years to come."

As a doctoral student at Michigan State University in the 1970s, Speh studied the factors that promote and retard cooperation between marketing and logistics. This interest in the intersection between marketing and logistics (later supply chain management) continued throughout his career, and Speh went on to co-write with Michael Hutt the textbook Business Marketing Management: A Strategic View of Industrial and Organizational Markets, which is now in its 12th edition. A distinguishing feature of the textbook was its emphasis on supply chain management.

"Through his research, textbook, award-winning teaching, and consulting, Tom was a strong advocate for advancing the supply chain management field," remembers Hutt. "In many ways, he was responsible for infusing more supply chain management content directly into the traditional marketing curriculum. He enjoyed describing how supply chain management drives all of the shareholder value levers—cost, customer service, productivity, and revenue generation." During his time at Miami University, Speh served as chair of the marketing department, associate dean of the Farmer School of Business, and director of the M.B.A. program. He was also the director of the Warehouse Research Center at the university from 1986 to 2000, during which time the center conducted 14 major studies dealing with inventory management issues, contract warehousing, bar-code systems, warehouse costing, and other subjects. Most recently, Speh was the director of e-learning.

To the end of his life, Speh was dedicated to furthering and refining his work on supply chain management. "Just last year, it was time for a revision of our B2B text," remembers Hutt. "Since Tom was undergoing chemotherapy, I said, 'Give your attention to that battle. I can cover the revision.' He said, 'No, let me at least do one chapter. Which one would you like?' I said, 'That's easy—make it supply chain management.' He did a beautiful job."

Speh's colleagues remember him for being an excellent mentor, teacher, and friend.

"Tom was a great friend for more than 35 years, who I could telephone or e-mail anywhere in the world, and he would be there to respond with the best possible advice and guidance," said Professor James R. Stock of the University of Southern Florida. "His professional achievements are significant as were his contributions as a long-time faculty member at Miami University. Literally thousands of students undertook logistics and supply chain careers because of Tom's influence on their lives as a teacher and counselor."

One of those students is Chris Moberg, now the associate dean of the College of Business at Ohio University. "One of the great privileges of being a teacher is the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life," reflected Moberg. "Too many educators fail to live up to this important responsibility, but not Tom. ... Tom's accomplishments in his life and career cast an extremely big shadow for those of us that worked with him and for those that will follow. But I always found Tom's shadow to be inclusive and welcoming."

To learn more about Speh's contributions to supply chain management, you can listen to a two-hour interview that Stock conducted with Speh here. Donations can be made to the Speh Innovation Fund, which provides scholarships for supply chain management students at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University. Updates and information about the memorial service can be found here.

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