Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, a faculty leader whose warm personality, scholarship and mentoring, and expertise in the science of consumer behavior made him invaluable at the Haas School of Business for decades, passed away on October 14, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. He was 89.
Myers, who first arrived in Berkeley and joined the business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and advisory activities, and ultimately his leadership at Haas.
Myers personified the concept of belonging in the Haas School community and UC Berkeley, said former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, professor and chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer for UC Berkeley.
“John understood belonging so deeply and what it meant to belong to this place, to have an identity that was fundamentally connected to this place,” Lyons said.
Myers was born on July 22, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in the town of Penny, where his father owned a lumber mill. At a young age, he went to boarding school in Victoria. Despite being two years younger than his classmates and the smallest boy on the teams, he was a versatile athlete who played rugby, cricket, and soccer. He graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry and commerce from the University of British Columbia, where he was involved in campus journalism and athletics. He went on to earn an MBA in 1958 from the University of Western Ontario, where he discovered his love of teaching. In 1966, he received his PhD in business administration and marketing as well as a master’s in sociology from Northwestern University.
Myers was unreserved in his dedication both to Haas students and administration. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, associate dean of curriculum, and associate dean of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD Program from 1982 to 1985. He also served as a member of the ASUC Store Operations Board.
His Haas colleagues remember him as a calming force. Despite his imposing frame and intellect, Myers put people at ease with his easygoing personality and sense of humor. “He was just like a big teddy bear. He was warm and safe and friendly. He got along with everybody,” said David Aaker, the E.T. Grether Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Public Policy.
Through his love of evolving technologies, Myers worked to establish the first Haas computer lab in the basement of Barrows Hall and designed and developed the school’s mainframe and PC-based computer information system.
Research on consumer behavior
Among Myers’ areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia. In an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research in March 1998, Myers and Michal Strahilevitz, PhD 93, examined how a company’s promise to donate to charity could drive consumers to purchase certain products.
Myers co-authored with Aaker, and later Rajeev Batra, “Advertising Management,” an influential textbook widely-used in graduate business schools internationally and now in its fifth edition. He also taught advertising management in Russia and France and served as vice president of the Education Division of the American Marketing Association and president of the Association of Directors of Doctoral Programs in Business.
Myers served as a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations on marketing and advertising issues, and as expert witness on numerous public policy cases. He was proud of his work on the board for the National Junior Tennis League of San Francisco and Oakland for under-resourced youth.
Dedicated mentor and community builder
Myers was passionate about creating a sense of community at Haas, hosting parties for PhD students and serving on numerous student thesis committees. His devotion to Haas marketing students continued after his retirement in 1994 with the report “Four Decades of Berkeley Marketing PhDs.”
Kay Lemon, PhD 94, recalled how welcoming Myers and his wife were in the early 1990s when Lemon and her husband first arrived at UC Berkeley. Her first teaching experience was as Myers’ graduate student instructor.
“John was a great mentor to me. He provided strong support, insights and encouragement throughout my career,” said Lemon, who now holds the Accenture Professorship at the Boston College School of Management “He was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I’ve known.”
In 2010, Myers spoke about his teaching career in an interview with St. Michaels University School in Canada, which he graduated from in 1947. “One of my teaching styles was to constantly challenge students to think. This was not very popular with some students. It was easier to spend time in lecture dreaming about other things or just automatically taking notes without much thinking,” he said.
While his classroom could prove rigorous, Myers had kind words for struggling students. “If any doctoral student was discouraged about their coursework, or dissertation, they knew John would be encouraging,” said Strahilevitz, now a professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California.
Always the consummate host, Myers and Arlyn, his wife of close to 60 years and a UC Berkeley College of Chemistry emeritus lecturer who also earned her PhD from Northwestern, hosted generations of Haas students, faculty, and their families. They started traditions of hosting PhD students in the early 1980s and Haas emeriti faculty in the late 1990s. Their house, with its view of the Bay, was “the go-to place,” said Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, the J. Gary Shansby Professor of Marketing Strategy.
The late Haas Dean Raymond Miles, in comments prepared for Myers’ retirement, highlighted Myers’ love of bringing happiness to others by playing Santa at Haas holiday parties.
Myers’ son Shawn D. Myers earned his MBA at Haas in 1999. “My father was an immeasurable influence on all those who were lucky enough to spend time with him. As a father and grandfather, he was quick with a joke, able to captivate with a story, and always there to support us through difficult times. He helped to shape so many people in his personal and professional lives, and we will endeavor to carry his spirit of generosity and joy with us forever.”
Myers is survived by his wife, Arlyn; their children Karlyne M. Reilly (husband Jay G. Reilly) of Potomac, MD, Shawn D. Myers (wife Jennifer B. Myers) of Redwood City, Calif., and Amanda J. Myers of Coconut Grove, FL; and grandchildren Jordan A. Reilly, Megan B. Reilly, John (Jack) R. Myers, and Katherine C. Myers.
John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award
The family suggests that those wishing to honor Myers may do so by donating to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award at the Haas School of Business established by the family in his honor: https://haas.berkeley.edu/giving/. To make a gift online, please note “In Memory of Professor John Myers” on the donation form (choose any fund). Donations may be made by check to “UC Berkeley,” with a note “Myers Fund/Haas,” and mailed to UC Berkeley Gift Services, 1995 University Ave, Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704-1070.