In Memoriam: Edward D. Irons, Ph.D., Former Head of Business at Howard University, Dies at 98


Written by the Howard University Newsroom Staff,

Howard University regrets to share news of the passing of Edward D. Irons, Ph.D., at the age of 98. Irons served as the head of the business department at Howard University before the School of Business was formerly established in 1970.

“Dr. Irons was a pioneer and visionary in business education who provided the foundation for what would become our current School of Business,” said Anthony Wilbon, Ph.D., dean of the Howard University School of Business. “We are saddened to hear about his transition and give our condolences to his family.”

Irons was born in Vinita, Oklahoma on August 29, 1923. He was drafted to the Navy, and after being discharged, attended Wilburforce University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in business administration. He then went on to receive a master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Minnesota in 1951. In 1959, he became just the second Black person to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard Business School, where he studied new banks.

“I knew Dr. Irons and had the opportunity to collaborate with him on several projects throughout the years,” said Barron Harvey, Ph.D., dean emeritus of Howard University School of Business and associate provost for academic innovation and strategic initiatives. “Dr. Irons was an internationally recognized financial expert who sought to aid and assist minority organizations and institutions. He will be missed by both the HBCU and banking communities.”

Irons was an American economist, businessman, author and educator. He was a stalwart in the African-American community and had a profound impact on the HBCU community, including Howard University and Texas Southern University. Irons was also dean emeritus of the Clark Atlanta University School of Business, where he also held serval endowed chairs.

In 1964, Irons became the first president of the Riverside National Bank in Houston, Texas, the first bank given a charter to African-Americans in 40 years. He served on several banking corporation boards and was a member of the board of Atlantic Life Financial Group for many years. Irons was also the organizer of the National Bankers Association and served as superintendent of the Office of Banking and Financial Institutions for the District of Columbia.

Irons passed away peacefully at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He is survived by his loving wife of 34 years, Joyce C. Irons, his five children, 12 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.