The Life and Legacy of Danny Van Den Bulcke (1939 – 2014)

by Filip De Beule & Alain Verbeke


Daniel or Danny Van Den Bulcke will be remembered by most for his leadership role in developing the European International Business Academy (EIBA). From the end of the 1970s until his untimely passing in 2014, most of Danny‘s unmatched institutional service went into building EIBA. Danny served on the EIBA Board as of 1979, acting as EIBA’s national representative for Belgium from 1979 to 2004, and EIBA President from 1985 to 1987. He was the EIBA Chairman from 2003 through 2009, and Dean of the Fellows from 2009 to 2012.

When contemplating Danny’s long and distinguished career, it is somewhat amusing to observe an Uppsala-type, process model of internationalization. Danny’s activities started from a local, Belgian interest in foreign, multinational operations, and gradually transitioned to a regional and then global interest in international business (IB) and its impacts. This gradual internationalization process is evident, not only in Danny’s research, but also in his teaching career and his active participation in academic networks, involving colleagues and doctoral students from all over the world.

Academic career

On the Belgian scene, Danny almost singlehandedly turned the study of IB into an area of legitimate scholarly inquiry. He was one of the pioneers of IB development in Belgium, where he led the development of IB courses and programs in several universities. During his long career, he taught at no less than ten Belgian institutes and universities, including the Universities of Leuven, Ghent, Limburg, Brussels and of course Antwerp. At the University of Antwerp, he lectured at the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB), the Faculty of Applied Economics, the Institute of Transport and Maritime Management (ITMMA) and the Antwerp Management School (AMS).

On the European scene, it is fair to say that Danny was the soul of EIBA.  Numerous PhD students and young scholars consider EIBA the friendliest of all conferences, and Danny was largely responsible for creating an inviting, social community atmosphere.  Every year, he was somehow able to enlist the full engagement of a scholar in a European country to organize a magnificent conference.  Those of us who were present at the EIBA conference he organized himself in Antwerp, will remember the Gala dinner in a private bank, where we were surrounded in the grand dining room with original paintings from Pieter-Paul Rubens.

The yearly doctoral tutorials he organized for EIBA between 1987 and 2004, represent a lasting legacy. Danny introduced the EIBA doctoral tutorial at the 1987 EIBA conference in Antwerp, which was later renamed the John H Dunning Doctoral Tutorial in International Business at the request of Danny.  After Danny’s passing, and in recognition of his contributions to the development of the IB field and his active role in supporting PhD students, EIBA’s doctoral symposium was named after him (Danny Van Den Bulcke Doctoral Symposium in International Business).

On the global scene, few people have done as much for the IB field as Danny.  He was a visiting professor at five Dutch universities, and was instrumental in establishing IB programs in Poland, Indonesia, Bolivia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, India, Macau and China. He just loved to help establish new chapters and IB working groups in developing and emerging economies.  He also ran a large number of international development projects, involving both research and education, in Africa, Asia and South America. His contributions to the educational development of Chinese universities earned him the Sanqin Prize of Shaanxi Province in China and the Friendship Prize awarded by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Experts in 2000.  He was also elected as a Fellow of the Academy of International Business (AIB).

Danny supervised, or was otherwise involved in guiding and evaluating, numerous doctoral theses, at home and across the globe.  He was a member of the jury for the Gunnar Hedlund Award for the best PhD thesis in IB from its inception. Through participating in all these PhD related events and thesis development activities, he influenced many future IB scholars. He had a keen eye for talent, which he nurtured. Many of his students from across the world kept in touch with him long after graduating.

Social community building

During his long and distinguished career, Danny traveled the world many times over – his ubiquitous camera in hand – and developed deep friendships with numerous people around the globe. Not only did he entertain his colleagues, he also enriched their lives. Danny was a great colleague and a truly wonderful friend. He was a delightful person, with a great sense of humor and a strong sense of purpose and fair play.

Danny will always be remembered for his thoughtful and principled leadership, as well as for his warm personality. He was a renowned academic expert in IB and highly respected among his peers for his many contributions to the intellectual development of the field. In the case of EIBA, he was its guiding light for decades.

Danny’s capacity to inspire us will live on, as we seek to emulate the virtues he exemplified. On three dimensions, Danny was the best among us:  impeccable integrity, institutional leadership and unwavering attention to the most vulnerable person in the room. He truly embodied the belief that increased international exchange can make the world a better place, and he did make it a better one.