Noreen Littman (‘62)

Majoring in business was a gamble “I remember searching for a major, thinking I should do psychology or journalism,” Noreen Littman said. “I was complaining to my guy friends that I couldn’t find a major and they said, ‘Why don’t you try a business major? No other girl has come through that alive.’ It was kind of a bet, so of course I took it.”

She won, becoming one of the first females to graduate from Gonzaga’s School of Business. “Being the only woman was exciting,” she said. “Mother always said we would have to make our own way.”

Littman grabbed all that Gonzaga had to offer, living in Crimont her first year, then off-campus where she recalls crawling out the basement window to meet up with her boyfriend. “I remember telling my dad, ‘Gonzaga has many more treasures to offer than just studying,’ ” she said.

Littman credits Professor Jerry Tremaine, head of Gonzaga’s marketing department, for her career path. “He was my mentor,” she said. “We did a lot of team-building activities in his class. At first, none of the guys wanted to work with me, but when I aced our first group assignment they suddenly changed their minds.”

Marketing and advertising were second nature to Littman, who today lives in Palm Desert, Calif. “Even economics was fun,” she said. “All of my professors – all men, of course – were delightful. The speech classes based on the Dale Carnegie theory taught me how to speak before groups, truly saving my retailing career. I can’t think of anything that Gonzaga lacked for me.”

Finding a job didn’t come easy. “I took a bus from Spokane to L.A. to interview,” she said. “Sears told me they didn’t accept women in their training program. Frederick and Nelson patted me on the head and told me to go back to North Dakota and marry a farmer.”

Despite the roadblocks and blockheads, Littman found success with Broadway Department Stores. “They had two female vice presidents and offered me a job,” she said. Within a year, Noreen was promoted to assistant buyer, then buyer. She remained with Broadway for 15 years, before turning to smaller, boutique-type stores and ultimately serving as a senior vice president for a firm with 400 franchise operations.

“The first airplane ride I ever took was as a buyer and I just happened to have $500,000 to spend,” she said. “Over the years, I flew all over the world, sat and talked with celebrities. I just had a ball.”

Littman did quite a lot of volunteering. “My husband and I adopted two children, were married 43 years and have been blessed with two grandchildren,” she said. “He passed away two years ago from cancer. When I look back on the awesomeness of my life, I can’t even fathom that this happened to a kid with no sophistication from North Dakota.”

Bet they didn’t learn this 50 Years ago

Assistant Professor Rebecca Bull Schaefer teaches human resource management, which prepares students for careers in general management and human resources.

Schaefer is particularly interested in teaching about the role of emotions and attitudes in employees’ productivity. “Fifty years ago, students would not have been exposed to ideas about how people felt or thought in the workplace,” Bull Schaefer said. “Managers did not want to pay attention to that. They saw humans as rational creatures, and rational creatures did not experience emotions. Not until the 1990s was it more accepted to talk about emotions at work. How are you feeling? And how is that affecting your performance?”

Another contemporary topic that she teaches: the use of virtual teams at work and how changing technology helps or hinders team performance. “We have so much media at our disposal. The richer media – such as Skype, that allows visual and tone of voice to come through – are so much more productive.”

Of 40 fulltime professors in the School of Business Administration, 11 are women. Business majors this fall numbered 440 women and 589 men.
School of Business Dean Bud Barnes foresees significant changes in business education.

“I think improvement in delivery systems via technology is going to drastically alter the way in which higher education is delivered. Also, I think we will see less and less silo delivery within the disciplines and more integrative disciplines – global topics, really – dominating the coursework that students will be assigned.”

“I think we will do a lot more teaching toward service industries, than hard manufacturing industries. And that, by its very nature, leads to cross-disciplinary teaching.”

The dean also anticipates fiercer competition for graduate students. “We’re going to see a consolidation of programs. Fewer quality programs will dominate the market.” While undergraduate students will continue to seek residential campus experiences, Barnes sees the innovative delivery of education as vital to Gonzaga’s future.

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