Rajan Varadarajan was recognized on March 31st by Mays Business School for a prolific career of research and teaching. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award – the highest award given to a faculty member at Mays for sustained and outstanding scholarly contributions.
Varadarajan is a University Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Texas A&M University, a Regents Professor and holder of the Ford Chair in Marketing and E-Commerce. He was also the recipient of the American Marketing Association’s Irwin/McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator Award in 2015.
He is such a perfectionist as a writer and editor, even his dean fears his red pen. That’s because Dean Eli Jones is a former student of Varadarajan’s. “I have been writing a congratulatory note to him for the past 45 minutes, and I’m still not sure I got it right,” Jones said.
A record of excellence
Jones said during his 35 years at Texas A&M, Varadarajan has won “just about every award,” and that he was proud to present him the Mays Lifetime Achievement Award. Varadarajan responded, “It’s always a thrill and a delight to address a former student by his designated title. Maybe one day I’ll have the pleasure of calling him President Jones.”
Varadarajan came from India to the United States in 1976, and he came to Texas A&M five years later. He said he has been fortunate to teach and collaborate on research projects with many outstanding faculty colleagues and doctoral students. He said he enjoyed his time as department head – two stints totally 14 years – but was happy to return to teaching full-time in 2014.
He has been teaching a doctoral seminar on marketing strategy since 1982, master’s level courses on marketing strategy and innovation, and has in recent years developed an interest in environmental sustainability related issues. He characterized his current research focusing on issues relating to environmental sustainability as akin to working toward a second Ph.D. Varadarajan said he was fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve as editor of two top journals in his field, the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. In reference to the six years he served as editor of these journals, he said: “Compared to every other experience I’ve had, these six years were among the best of my professional years. They were, for the most part, seven-day work weeks. But it was a small price to pay for all the learning.”
Varadarajan is currently serving as Vice President for Publications for the American Marketing Association, and on the Editorial Review Boards a number of journals, including the Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of International Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Journal of Strategic Marketing and Journal of Marketing Management. He has served as program co-chair for the American Marketing Association Marketing Educators’ Conference, the Academy of Marketing Science Marketing Educators’ Conference, the American Marketing Association Faculty Consortium and the American Marketing Association Doctoral Consortium.
Jones lauded Varadarajan’s ability to get conceptual papers published in top-tier journals, and his colleagues call him without peer in his ability to synthesize and develop integrative conceptual frameworks for the study of marketing, business and corporate strategy-related issues. A number of sources have cited him as one of the most productive marketing faculty member, with his record so far of publishing more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, and making more than 200 presentations at major national and international conferences.
A hunger for knowledge
On the day of his award, Varadarajan spoke on “My Academic Journey: Musings on Aspirations, Inspirations, Pursuits and Serendipity.” Beforehand, Mays faculty, staff and Ph.D. students joined friends and family members to celebrate with Varadarajan in the Cocanougher Center.
Varadarajan’s voracious appetite for knowledge feeds his agility with words and research. He calls himself a book scavenger, and told stories of stray books he has picked up and read that have influenced him with their pearls of wisdom.” The topics ranged from sociology to philosophy to poetry – almost anything outside his discipline. He encourages his students to do the same.
After the presentation, Jones said of Varadarajan, “I learn something every time. He just took me back over 20 years, and I was back in his classroom.” He handed him an envelope with his hand-written congratulatory letter and said, “The check is in the mail.”