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The IMD MBA – roots going back 50 years to nurture the leaders of the future

Way back in the winter of 1972, the first cohort of 28 participants from around the globe arrived to undertake a year’s Program for Junior Executives at IMEDE in the Swiss city of Lausanne on the shores of Lac Léman. Two years later their course and qualification would be recognized as an MBA, the most widely sought-after post-graduate qualification for a business manager.

Just a few years later in 1978, another group of 30 joined their MBA program at CEI (later to become IMI) in Geneva on the far western corner of the same lake.

Little did these two groups know that their MBA programs would become one in 1990 when IMI and IMEDE merged to become IMD. Neither did they know that, in 2022, they and all the other thousands of MBA graduates from these three institutions would be at the heart of a weekend of celebration at IMD to mark 50 years of this prestigious qualification.

But even though 50 years have gone by, they would still recognize the MBA they worked so hard and intensely to achieve.

Yes, of course, it has evolved and adapted to anticipate future trends and respond to the changing demands placed on leaders. The IMD ethos of continual innovation, of “Challenging what is, inspiring what could be” has meant that over the years the MBA has adapted in many radical ways. But it has remained true to its roots and values, to timeless principles around real-world understanding and developing leaders.

Marking the occasion – on campus and in print

In October 2022, IMD marked this milestone anniversary at a celebratory event on Campus, at a gala dinner, and with the launch of the book 50 for 50 – Inspiring leadership journeys from half a century of the IMD MBA.

IMD MBA50 Gala Dinner (Photo by Mark Henley /IMD)

The events brought together some 200 alumni from as far away as Australia, South Africa, and California, former deans, current faculty, and participants for lively discussions and sessions on the future of leadership in an uncertain world.

Phil Gardiner, a member of the first-ever MBA class at IMEDE in 1972, and Gertrude Okoth Rea, who was in the 2022 MBA class, shared their experiences of the program 50 years apart. Phil Gardiner shared how the MBA’s intensity had served well throughout his career as a banker and as a farmer. For Gertrude Okoth Rea the program has already given her the confidence and connections to face whatever her future career holds.


“Our purpose is to develop leaders who transform organizations and contribute to society. And you are those leaders, and we feel very grateful that every day you are out there doing your best to contribute to a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive world.”

Jean-François Manzoni, President of IMD and Nestlé Chaired Professor

50 for 50 looks back over the last 50 years and forward to the future – a future that is being written by many of the alumni who feature in the book and by many thousands of others. Along with the recollections of deans and faculty, the book describes the journeys of the 50 selected alumni of the MBA. Many of them have built companies and business sectors, have educated children, are architects of clean technology and the digital revolution, and have helped build nations. Many more alumni could have appeared on its pages: IMD’s global MBA network overflows with exemplary leaders who have gone on to shape the world. Those selected represent the achievements of them all.

(Photo by Mark Henley /IMD)
IMD Foundation Board Meeting. 50 for 50, Anniversary book
MBA 50 Liselott Kilaas_2

“The year at IMEDE was a game-changer for me. After that year there were so many opportunities. It shaped me professionally and personally.”

Liselott Kilaas, MBA 1987, Chair of the Board of Directors of Coala Life, Implantica AG, and Avonova AB.


“I think that my year at IMD was really a fundamental change for me in multiple dimensions and multiple ways. It’s without doubt the best investment I’ve ever made. It dramatically changed the trajectory of my career.”

Søren Skou, MBA 1997, CEO of A P Møller – Mærsk A/S