A Tree in the Darling Forest Of Finnish-American Liaisons
Already a quarter-century ago, an important bond was established between
two enterprising American individuals and Finland. Over the years gone
by, the seeds sown in this fertile ground have spawned into a blossoming
"forest" of Finnish-American liaisons. Finns, if anyone, know
that behind successful forestry is good management. Planting and nurturing
individual trees takes years of commitment of both brain, hands, and heart;
which are only put to a real test during bad seasons. This is a story of
a "tree planted in the forest" ten years ago.
In 1989, Finland was still breathing heavy in the armpit of the Soviet
Union, the wall was still in place in Germany, and the cold war still a
global reality. Early that year, being apprenticed to venture capital at
a partner-driven Finnish group, I was accepted to an executive program
at the Mississippi State University coordinated by professor Juha Näsi,
"a tree already in full blossom." Although I had imported American
Football to Tampere and joined the LFAS already in 1981, this was my first
visit to the new continent.
At the MSU, lectures by professor John Darling and his colleagues, our
private discussions during the two weeks - Southern Hospitality - all culminating
in a lovely dinner at the Darlings' residence, helped me make two important
personal decisions: I'd enroll in a part-time Ph.D. program in Finland
and pursue for a visiting scholarship in America to properly kick off studies.
I did complete nearly half of my doctoral course work at the University
of Oregon in 1990-1991 - during which time Sirpa acquired an MBA degree
- all as encouraged by professor Darling. Our American year also resulted
in several business relationships that helped me launch and develop a pioneering
venture capital operation in the markets emerging from the ruins of the
Soviet Union, during 1991-1996.
Since 1997, when I joined professor Näsi's team of corporate strategy
at the University of Jyväskylä to work full-time on the Ph.D.,
my association with professor Darling has become fully refreshed. Among
other things, he helped my inauguration as a "management 101 teacher"
by giving a perfect opening lecture to my class. According to a "trusted
source", the general student response was condensable to a three-letter-word:
"Wow." The same appeals to how an executive member of our doctoral
seminar group publicly appraised Dr. Darling's visiting lecture just two
Finland's rise from the armpit of the Soviet Union to the cockpit of
the European Union well illustrates the exhausting pace and extent of change
during the last decade of the 25 years of John and Melva Darling's association
with Finland. Today's sunshine is, in fact, the perfect weather to salute
great friends of Finland -- individuals who where with us already when
it was raining -- who helped us walk the walk.
[ Seppä Marko, email@example.com ]