Professor Farrokh Langdana with EMBA Class of 2023 Officers Subie Durga and Avni Bhatt at the unveiling of the Berlin Airlift painting.

Berlin Airlift painting aims to inspire future students

Gift from the EMBA Class of 2023 tells how the “Candy Bomber” helped U.S. to global leadership

In professor Farrokh Langdana’s macroeconomic classes, history is often evoked to demonstrate concepts that can leave a long-lasting impression on students. These class discussions constitute the Cycle of One Leadership Series which is a unique feature of Rutgers EMBA—The Powerhouse. 

One story about the Berlin Airlift used to explain “factor abundance and leadership” so inspired the Rutgers Executive MBA Class of 2023, that as a class gift, they commissioned a painting of the famous photograph of a U.S. Air Force C-54 aircraft approaching Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. 

In 1948 when the Soviets cut of all road and rail access to West Berlin, thus beginning the Cold War to force the allies to abandon West Berlin to them, President Harry Truman faced a crisis. The US and the UK launched Operation Vittles, The Berlin Airlift, to attempt the unprecedented—supply a huge city through three narrow air corridors—a truly daunting task given that winter was approaching and West Berlin city would need heating fuel.

The Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949, became a symbol of America’s commitment to Europe after World War II with airplanes delivering humanitarian aid every 45 seconds at the height of the 11-month mission to break the blockade of West Berlin and keep it free from Soviet takeover. 

"The U.S. had pledged to protect West Berlin, and this event showed the world that America keeps their word unequivocally," said Langdana, professor of finance and economics, and the director of Rutgers Executive MBA program. “That type of global leadership creates so much good will.” 

The painting presented by the EMBA class of 2023, is a class-commissioned painting of the immortal photograph of US Air Force's Gail Halvorsen, also known as the "Berlin Candy Bomber,” dropping candy from his C-54 Skymaster to children as the U.S. and United Kingdom sought to keep West Berlin supplied.

Class of 2023 officers Subhash “Subie” Durga, president, and VP Avni Bhatt along with most of the class of EMBA 2023 unveiled the painting to faculty and first year EMBA students at a ceremony in between classes on a sunny Saturday in February.  

"Going through the Rutgers EMBA program shines a light on something in you that you didn’t know you had,” said Durga, a former U.S. Marine and now an executive at BMS. "The painting is a reminder of that spirit of leadership and cooperation you learn, and it really resonated with our class,” he said.

Which brings us back to that class lesson on factor abundance, and the comparative advantage it provides when a nation employs its abundant factors intensely. “With this painting, the Class of 2023 has ensured that future EMBAs will always remember this,” said Langdana. "It is easier to lead and better to lead, by being kind."

American C-54 Bomber landing during Berlin Airlift.
Berlin “Airlift” of 1948-49 broke through Soviet blockade of city by non-stop supply shipments to beleaguered 2.5 million people of West Berlin. Original photo from the U.S. Library of Congress.

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