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HGSE Remembers David Kuechle

David KuechleThe Harvard Graduate School of Education community is mourning the loss of Professor David Kuechle, who died earlier this year.

“The HGSE community has lost an extraordinary person and educator in David Kuechle,” said Dean Kathleen McCartney.  “Although I did not know David personally, I knew of him through his work in labor relations in education. I have been so moved by the comments of my colleagues about his skillful teaching and his dedication to his students. As the chair of the Administration, Planning, and Social Policy Program, a longtime faculty member in the Institute for Educational Management program, and a beloved professor at HGSE for many years, David touched countless lives. He will be greatly missed.”

Kuechle came to HGSE in 1977 as a visiting professor from the Harvard Business School. A renowned expert in the fields of labor relations, dispute resolution, managing negotiations, and management change, his experience as a lawyer and arbitrator informed the courses he taught on Appian Way about labor relations, management, and unions.

“Dave was an inspired and inspiring teacher. No one who took a course with him will ever forget his masterful, multiday simulations,” says Professor Susan Moore Johnson, M.A.T.’69, Ed.D.’81, a former student of Kuechle’s. “He expected us to know the facts, live in the context, play unfamiliar roles, and act decisively and effectively. New twists in the action arrived in our mailboxes or by phone at any time, day or night. His enthusiasm for teaching and his approach to labor relations have guided my work for the past 35 years.”

By 1978, Kuechle was appointed as a professor of education at HGSE where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1993 at which time he took on a position of professor emeritus until his death.

During his nearly 40 years affiliated with Harvard, Kuechle also taught at the Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard Extension School, where he earned awards for his teaching.

Kuechle was well-known for his exquisite use of the case teaching method and consistently ranked as “excellent” by his students. “When I think of David Kuechle, I remember a master teacher who held his students spellbound with his case teaching skills,” says former HGSE dean and professor Jerome Murphy, Ed.D.’73. “I remember a kind, decent, and gentle man – an esteemed friend who was committed to the work of the Ed School.”

Jeff Young, Ed.D.’88, superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools, says that Kuechle was known among students in his Labor Relations class as “The Shark,” due to his ability to sniff out students who hadn’t read the assigned case study.

“We quickly learned the meaning of high expectations,” Young says. “I remember David for his great analytical mind and his brilliance as a teacher. Beyond that, however, I was privileged to get to know the kind, open-hearted man whose generous spirit and willingness to see more than one side of any story elevated him to a very special place in my personal pantheon of educators.”

“Over the years I have met many HGSE graduates who reported how valuable David Kuechle's course on labor negotiations has been to them,” says Professor Richard Murnane. “Without exception they commented on David's dedication to his students and the value of the practical lessons his course taught them about how to 'get to yes' in difficult negotiations.”

Over the years, Kuechle advised multinational corporations and foreign governments and also served as a mediator and arbitrator to universities and school boards around the country. Professor Judith McLaughlin says that "Kuechle’s work embodied HGSE’s current day mission as the nexus of practice, policy, and research."

While working as department chair of Administration Planning and Social Policy, Kuechle helped launch the Urban Superintendents Program in 1991, which has produced 26 superintendents, 25 deputy superintendents or chief academic officers, 24 assistant or area superintendents, 21 directors (central office positions), 25 school principals, 10 special assistants or chief of staff, 10 educational consultants, 10 university faculty, and a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of education.

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