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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 weeks ago.

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.

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Asko Korpela 19990921 (19990921) o o AJK kotisivu