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Focus: Supply Chain Trends/Issues

Feature Article from Our Supply Chain Trends and Issues Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine


July 5, 2011

Supply Chain News: Supply Chain Legend Dr. Don Bowersox of Michigan State University Dies from Bout with Cancer


Author of First Logistics Textbook Influenced Thousands in his Career; Helped Start what is Today CSCMP; Dead at 79 in Michigan


SCDigest Editorial Staff


Dr. Don Bowersox, who from his place at Michigan State University was one of the true pioneers in the development of supply chain thinking and was extremely well liked those who knew him, passed away this week in his summer home in Traverse City, Michigan after losing a bout to cancer. He was 79.

SCDigest Says:


Dr. Bowersox is connected to dozens if not hundreds of academics in one way or the other, and hundreds of more supply chain professionals who intersected with his teaching and writing.

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According to Dr. David Closs, chairperson of the Department of Supply Chain Management at Michigan State, Bowersox died July 4th after experiencing a return of cancer (this time in his throat) for which he was beginning to receive chemotherapy. His system reacted very negatively to the chemotherapy and that led to his death.

As of this moment, arrangements have not been finalized, but the funeral will be in East Lansing, MI later this week.

Bowersox was dean emeritus and had been a professor in Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State for over 40 years, ultimately becoming one of the most well-known and influential academics in the North America if not the world. For awhile, he served as served as Dean of the Broad College of Business at MSU.

He remained active in the field even after semi-retirement a few years ago, co-authoring the popular and visionary book "Start Pulling Your Chain" in 2008 with Nick LaHowchic (a former supply chain executive at The Limited Brands).

Bowersox was also co-author of the popular text book "Supply Chain Management," written in the most recent 3rd edition with Dr. Closs and Dr. Bixby Cooper, as well as writing a number of other books throughout his career. That goes back at least as far back as 1968, where he co-authored "Physical Distribution Management: Logistics Problems of the Firm," which is believed to be the industry's first logistics textbook and which can still be found on

He also authored over 250 articles on marketing, transportation, and logistics during his career. He was a member of the editorial review board of the International Journal of Logistics Management, the Journal of Supply Chain Management, and is Associate Editor of the Journal of International Marketing.

(Supply Chain Trends Story Continued Below)




He was a founding member second president of the National Council of Physical Distribution Management in 1963, which became later the Council of Logistics Management, which in term changed its name to the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) in 2005. In 1966, Bowersox won just the second Distinguished Service Award then given by the organization, at the time when he was a Vice President and General Manager for the E.F. MacDonald Stamp Company (the "plaid stamp" company for those old enough to remember).

Bowersox's death is the second passing of a major supply chain academic since the start of 2010, following the death (also from cancer) of Dr. Tom Mentzer of the University of Tennessee last year.

Dr. Bowersox is connected to dozens if not hundreds of academics in one way or the other, and hundreds of more supply chain professionals who intersected with his teaching and writing. SCDigest will publish comments from many of those we reach out for additional perspectives on Bowersox's great career.

Said SCDigest Editor Dan Gilmore: "I did not know Dr. Bowersox well, but we had a number of interactions over the past few years at different events, and came to know just what a knowledegable, influential and genuinely nice man he was. Very sad he hear he has passed. The industry lost one of its great ones."

"It is with great sadness that I became aware of the passing of Professor Don Bowersox," said Dr. John Langley of Penn State University. "Considering his dedication to and passion for the professions of supply chain management and logistics, he will be remembered as one of the truly key people who is directly responsible for much of the progress and advancements we have made in these key areas of business activity.  He will be missed by many, including myself but his contributions and accomplishments will long be remembered."


Did you know or learn from Dr. Boxersox? Could you offer a few thoughts? Please send them to SCDigest at the Feedback button below.

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Recent Feedback



With sadness I read of Don`s passing. 


He was a dear, dear friend of my parents Ed and Sharon Morrison, and I remember the family fondly. 


With thoughts and prayers to you all.


Mary Morrison




Dr. Bowersox was a truly inspirational person. He was one of the great teachers at MSU that got me excited about a career in supply chain more than 20 years ago. 
Thanks Dr. Bowersox!  
Lori (Bellville) Dunch
MSU, MLM 1992




Dr.  Bowersox was one of just a handful university professors that made valuable contributions to our industry. In the 1970s, he designed a way to model our distribution segments and help understand it better.
I never met Bowersox but was an admirer from a distance. I hope his colleagues at East Lansing will keep up the traditions.
Ram Krishnan
Karma Logistics




Don Bowersox will be greatly missed by me, my family and many, many others. As we both retired about the same time he and I and our wives got to enjoy more time together, starting when we wrote a book together continuing from then on.   Don and I had a friendship that built over the last 40 years in the evolving field of supply chain, developing and maturing in academia, business and consulting. Many in all disciplines I think would agree with me that Don was The Logistics/Supply Chain thought leader of our time. Through his continual collaboration among all he was known for not only doing supply chain work of the day but also continually articulating the Supply Chain vision of tomorrow.
In 2006 I had the privilege of speaking for the industry at Don`s retirement tribute dinner at MSU. As I reached out to leaders across industries to get their input I repeatedly received a common response - ``I don`t know where to begin!" They then quickly talked about their earliest experience (like Don had been around forever!), his energizing talks, his leading edge thinking in the field of Supply Chain,his many valued books, world class logistics research studies, his passion on the subject of Supply Chain, his continual giving back to the field in academia and business and it went on. They all talked about his personal side, never too busy to answer questions or provide council advice and coaching.
His lifework in Supply Chain had him partnering with over 200 of the Fortune 500, doing speaking assignments in over 16 countries around the world and published over a dozen books in multiple editions, some in over 10 languages. Don was a global visionary of Supply Chain Management who wrote, spoke and befriended global individuals in academia, business and government. While I will personally cherish my time and friendship with Don and family and will miss being with him I am but one of many through the world who will miss his friendship, thinking and personal caring.
Nick LaHowchic




I loved this guy! He taught me at MSU. He directly boosted my career. He gave the toast at our wedding. He served on a Board with me.
My prayers go out to him and Terri and the entire family. A truly great man.
Dan McNamara




Don was a true Gentleman, Scholar, and indeed, a Legend. His legacy will live-on. He will be missed greatly.
Charles Clowdis
IHS Global Insight




A true giant passes to the Eternal Supply Chain.
One of my greatest honors was to know and be able to work with Don Bowersox several times through my career. His advice and counsel was extremely important in guiding how I practiced my craft beginning with meeting him many years ago at a conference for a fledgling organization then known as National Council Physical Distribution Management (NCPDM)
His vision and understanding of what was then and what was going to be in the future was remarkable. He prepared his students, mentored his associates, served his university and guided our industry with professionalism and insight that few others have been able to achieve.
He will be sorely missed by a grateful legion of professionals in Supply Chain around the world
Jim Nelson
Solutions That Deliver




Don was an inspirational leader and one of the true pioneers of today’s supply chain industry. He was a wonderful thought leader and will be missed by all of us who knew him as well as those whom he inspired through his books and numerous publications. 
David I. Beatson
Ascent Advisors, LLC




What a great man and role model!!   He was the best teacher anyone could ever want. He always greeted me with the warmest of smiles and hugs.   Darn….we lost a great one!!
Jennifer Beckett
VP – Sales & Marketing
Vendor Managed Technologies, Inc.




Superb leader in the field, and in the Michigan State University community.
His influence goes well beyond Supply Chain Management -- to business in general  to students of every level, and to those looking for a way to connect the dots between building a market, serving a market and growing a company. 
Daniel Wolf
Dewar Sloan
MSU, 1976 Business




The Logistics and Supply Chain profession has lost a true Mentor and Thought Leader in Don Bowersox. So many of us can point to Don as Mentor, friend, and even as a ``guidance counselor.`` He was always there for us, no matter if we were a student or alum at MSU or not. He taught us so much about Logistics and Supply Chain, and always challenged us to improve the state of the art as well as the science. 
He touched thousands of lives and improved the Logistics of life as well as business. We ALL owe thanks and gratitude to Don.
Gene Tyndall
Executive Vice President
Tompkins Associates