The Man Behind the “Heaton Beatin'”

There are two sides to Hal Heaton.

The first is a picture of floating tranquility. Donning a wetsuit and fins, Heaton has enjoyed scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, for more than twenty years.

“There’s something about being under the ocean in this surreal environment with coral reefs and fish that I just love,” Heaton says. “At Cozumel there’s a pretty strong current, so the boat will drop you in right above the coral reef and you just drift.”

Throw in a good book (he recently read tomes on the history of the Bible and the history of science) and Heaton would be content.

But then there’s the other side: the “Heaton Beatin’.”

The term, famous around the Marriott School, applies to the legendary experience students have been expecting from Heaton’s courses for thirty-three years.

“I’ll ask lots of questions, and I’ll argue each answer,” Heaton says. “I don’t care about the answer; I just want to know if you can defend your position. It’s a characteristic of my class that, shall we say, gets passed around among my students.”

The intensive style comes from Heaton’s experience as a professor at Harvard Business School in the late 1980s. There, Heaton embraced the Harvard Business School’s famous emphasis on the case study method which makes students the decision makers in a real-life scenario.

“I’m a dinosaur,” Heaton explains. “I think I’m really the last finance professor who does the full-blown case method. I don’t cover as much of the finance theory. I’m much more concerned with how you deal with life.”

Armed with two degrees each from BYU and Stanford along with his experiences at Harvard, Heaton seemed primed for a lifelong Ivy League career. But in 1991, Heaton returned to Provo. Here, he explains, he can rub shoulders with students that are making a difference in every aspect of their lives.

For example, Heaton recounts a trip to the São Paulo Brazil Temple at the end of a consulting trip. There he met a former student who was in the stake presidency, had risen to the executive level at his company, and was having an impact in the LDS Church, in his company, and in the country.

“That’s why I’m here at BYU,” Heaton says. “That’s the student I want to work with. The Harvard students were wonderful. They were bright and aggressive. These BYU students are going to have a great impact on families, on the Church, on society, and in many other areas. They’re the students I want to teach and want to work with.”