Richard Eugene Walton
April 15, 1931 – July 6, 2021
Dr. Richard Eugene Walton (Dick), age 90, of East Orleans, Massachusetts, passed away on July 6th, 2021, in his home surrounded by family. A loving father, husband, and brother, Richard is survived by his wife of 67 years, Sharon (Doty) Walton, and his children John Walton and wife Jill; Elizabeth Walton; Margaret Covell and husband Andrew; Andrew Walton and fiancée Alayne. He is predeceased by his sons Richard A. (1953) and Richard W., 18.5 years of age (1976). He is also survived by his grandchildren Aaron and Grace Walton, Parker Sweet, Natnael Walton, and Drew Walton. His sister, Shirley Wietnik, passed recently, and he is survived by her children Marcia Johnson and Diane Labin, brother Dr. Robert Walton, MD and wife Roberta, and is predeceased by brother Steven. He was laid to rest in Linwood Cemetery in Weston, Massachusetts.
Richard was born in Pulaski, Iowa, son of LR and Florence (King) Walton. He grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, where he met his high school sweetheart, Sharon. His unwavering work ethic took root at the age of eight with his first job weeding onions, before going on to become one of the leading social engineers and theorists in the areas of Organizational Behavior, Labor Relations, and Negotiation. After high school, Richard was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and studied at Victor University, New Zealand (1953). Richard earned a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s degree from Purdue University (1953 – 1954) and his D.B.A. in Labor Relations from Harvard University (1959). He also earned a degree in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan (1963). Richard returned to Purdue, this time as a faculty member of the Krannert School of Industrial Administration, where he taught for nine years.
Richard joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School in 1968, teaching courses in general management and organization, and retired in 1997. While at HBS, Richard served as the Director of the Division of Research (1969 – 1976) and the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration. The impact Richard has had on individuals, organizations, and entire fields of study, is profound. He was on the leading edge of workplace reform as both an architect to new systems, and a researcher. He authored eleven books, numerous case studies, and volumes of articles. As a consultant, he helped firms across many industries move to a team-based model, giving employees a voice, enhancing their level of commitment and productivity, and promoting their personal and professional development. An endless source of enjoyment was engaging his students, peers, friends, family, and anyone he encountered along the way, in discussion and debate.
Longtime friend and colleague, MIT Professor Robert McKersie, writes: "In the classroom, as mentor to scores of faculty members, prolific researcher, and as a corporate director, Dick Walton has made his mark and left an amazing legacy. Dick’s initiative in researching and creating frameworks for subjects that were just over the horizon was without parallel. These subjects include the negotiation process, job design, work restructuring, reward systems, managing strategic processes, union management partnerships, and the impact of new technology. As a friend and co-author, I will miss the chance to discuss the next cutting-edge topic with him." The two co-authored the seminal book A Behavioral Theory of Labor Negotiations (1965), for which they were honored on the continuing impact of the book fifty years later
While academic pursuits were central to Richard’s life, there was so much more. Many happy memories were made on trips with Sharon and family, from Shakespeare plays in London, to safaris in Africa, to bass fishing in Maine. He loved music, specifically jazz and the blues. Also, not surprisingly, he enjoyed competition – he was a regular in a local men's basketball league for many years, an active squash player with HBS colleagues, a ping pong and poker ringer, and enjoyed many rounds of golf with friends and family. As a devoted, long-time fan of the Boston Celtics, he witnessed decades of great wins from his seats in the old Boston Garden. Memories of him leaving games before the final buzzer and rushing the family to the car to beat the traffic continues to amuse his family. Richard also was an avid gardener and passionate about filling his yard with plants, flowers, and abundant color, and delighted in sharing his gardens with all that came by.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation to support research for Parkinson’s Disease be made to the Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease (massgeneral.org) or the Michael J. Fox Foundation (michaeljfox.org). For online condolences, please visit www.nickersonfunerals.com.
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In Memory Of
Richard Eugene Walton
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