[PW] FedEx Anecdote (Quotation Query #748)

S M Colowick januarye at gmail.com
Sun May 15 12:10:10 PDT 2016


On Sun, May 15, 2016 at 8:13 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
> There is a famous anecdote about FedEx founder Frederick W. Smith.  Wikipedia tells it as follows:
>
> "In 1962, Smith entered Yale University. While attending Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class, outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age. Folklore suggests that he received a C for this paper, although in a later interview he claims that he told a reporter, 'I don't know what grade, probably made my usual C,' while other tales suggest that his professor told him that, in order for him to get a C, the idea had to be feasible. The paper became the idea of FedEx ..."
>
> I am interested in tracing the earliest version of this anecdote, and would welcome any information about primary or secondary sources for early versions.

A snippet on Google Books shows a mention of this incident in Esquire
in 1978 (Overnight Highflier,
http://archive.esquire.com/issue/19780815): "Cocky Fred Smith: His
Yale professor gave him a C. hut Wall Street rates him A ."

Another snippet shows a possibly earlier mention in Air World
magazine, 1973 (page 193): "Frederick Smith's impossible dream became
the nationwide, multi-million dollar Federal Express overnight package
delivery ... in the early 1960s, and in 1965 made it the theme of a
thesis he wrote for a Yale University undergraduate course." Since
this is all I can see, I don't know if it mentions the C grade.


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