Jack Grayson

Founder and Chairman Emeritus, APQC

C. Jackson Grayson has a bachelor's degree from Tulane University, an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in business from the Harvard Business School. His academic career has included professorships at Harvard, Stanford, Tulane, and Southern Methodist University, and he has taught in business schools in France and Switzerland. He has also been a dean of two business schools—Tulane University and SMU. He became known for implementing innovations in business education at both institutions.

Jack became most widely known in 1971 when he was appointed to a U.S. Cabinet position during the period of price-wage controls. He served as chairman of the United States Price Commission, under President Richard Nixon. Though controls were not widely accepted, Jack was accorded national recognition by the press, business people, and labor for his fair and firm administration of the controls and for his work in helping remove them.

During his experience with controls, Jack became aware of how important productivity was to the economic well-being of the nation, how American productivity growth had begun to slow, and the rising competition from abroad. He was one of the first people in the nation to sound the alarm about our sagging productivity, quality, and competitiveness. After he left Washington, Jack returned to the private sector and founded the nonprofit APQC (American Productivity & Quality Center) in Houston, Texas. It was his answer to a dangerous economy—it was an initiative that would help improve American competitiveness.  

In 1990, Business Week said of Jack, “Few, if any, individual Americans have done more during the last 20 years to shape the country’s economic future for the better.” The story behind that statement is the history of APQC.

In 1997, APQC launched an effort to help the education sector restructure and improve student achievement and system performance, drawing on the methodologies learned over the organization’s 30-year existence. It has projects under way in schools, districts, states, and the federal government. Its latest project is called the North Star, a major effort to transform U.S. public K–12 education using process management.

Jack is a Certified Public Accountant and has been a member of the boards of directors of eight major U.S. corporations. He was named in 2000 as one of the 10 “Most Admired Knowledge Leaders” in North America by Teleos, a British research firm. In November 2003, he was named by the American Society of Quality (ASQ), as one of nine “Distinguished Service Medalists.” In 2006 the Cox Business School at SMU created the C. Jackson Grayson Endowed Faculty Innovation Award, for excellence and creativity in teaching, which is awarded each year at SMU.

Jack is the author of about 50 magazine and newspaper articles, and is also the author of four books. The latest is co-authored by Carla O'Dell and is titled If Only We Knew What We Know, a book about knowledge management and the internal transfer of best practices. A biography of his life, Freedom to Dream, Courage to Act: The First Nine Decades of C. Jackson Grayson, was released in 2014 in celebration of his 91st birthday.

Jack's career, however, is not confined to just business. He believes in variety, constant learning, experimentation, and fun. His career has included being a newspaper reporter in New Orleans, a Special Agent of the FBI, a manager of a cotton farm in North Louisiana, and a member of an export-import firm. He is also a single-engine airplane pilot. He has gone sky-diving (on his 75th and 90th birthday!), owned race horses, and has visited all seven world continents, including a recent trip to Antarctica. He even danced with Vivien Leigh at the gala premiere of “Gone With the Wind” in Atlanta when he was a student at Georgia Military Academy. Jack is presently 92 and plans to live until he’s at least 113—and pause then for replacement with spare body parts. He obviously believes in Self Renewal, a book by John Gardner that he says he reads regularly.