EIBA and Reijo

by Rebecca Piekkari, Denice Welch, Lawrence Welch and Catherine Welch

Reijo Luostarinen was Professor of International Business at the Helsinki School of Economics (later subsumed into Aalto University), from 1983 – 2003. He was one of the founding members of EIBA in 1974, and continued to be an important player in its development, particularly in the 1980s and 90s. He was a strong supporter of EIBA as a separate entity from the AIB and of its European/ national cultural emphasis. Reijo pushed for the name change from European International Business Association to European International Business Academy to better reflect what he saw as the goal of higher status and professionalism for the organisation. As the representative for Finland on EIBA’s board for a long period he was in a position to influence decision-making and implementation of the name change. Reijo also pushed for the adoption of the ‘Fellow’ award for long-standing service to EIBA as well as outstanding research and educational achievement in the field of IB. Not surprisingly, he ultimately became a recipient of the award. He was a keen attendee at annual conferences, often accompanied by his wife Kirsti, participating actively in paper presentations and Board meetings.

EIBA 1989 was held in Helsinki with Reijo as the organiser of the annual conference and thereby President. In order to keep the conference budget within limits, Reijo involved all his doctoral students and even their family members into the practical organization of EIBA. He planned the conference programme and also had a say about the spouses’ programme. Three aspects stand out:

1. EIBA 89 is special in EIBA annals as it was the first time for a long time that Eastern European academics were readily able to attend. But there was a problem: the conference fee. Many were not able to obtain funding from their home institutions. And Reijo faced another problem, the high cost of Finnish alcohol – both wine and spirits. So, in typically innovative and entrepreneurial fashion he came up with a countertrade solution that instead of paying the conference fee in currency, Eastern European academics could pay for it in vodka! There were of course limits on how much could be brought into Finland but the mix of warm red wine and vodka (mulled wine: in Finnish glogi) was appreciated at the conference dinner.           

2. The opening ceremony with John Dunning giving the initial address to attendees. But it was the scene that unfolded before us that entranced the audience. We looked out on the seashore and as John began to speak, as if by magic, snow began to fall. The unfolding scene was mesmeric, with John relegated to the background. Did Reijo flick a switch to make it happen?

3. Reijo was very fond of Finnish choir music and during the gala dinner the Helsinki School Union’s Female Choir sang Christmas carols. Reijo surprised the conference attendees by joining the choir. He was a very good singer himself.

Reijo’s seminal research on internationalization is acknowledged as an important foundation step, alongside the Uppsala model, in this area of early IB interest. He maintained an active role in consulting to internationalizing Finnish companies – large and small – throughout his academic career, and after formal retirement from his academic position: eg Chairman of Biohit from 2003 – 2011. He established international business as a separate area of teaching and research within the Helsinki School of Economics. As evidence of his forward thinking he insisted that IB be taught in English at HSE from the mid-1980s. Over the years, we became accustomed to seeing a large Finnish contingent at EIBA annual conferences.