John Philip Wernette was born October 29, 1903 in Imlay City, Michigan. He received his A.B. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1924, a master's degree from the University of Southern California in 1926, a second master's degree from Harvard University in 1929, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard in 1932. He and Eleanor DeCourcy were married in 1940, and had two children, John and Elizabeth.
Professor Wernette served on the Harvard faculty from 1927 to 1945, first in the Economics Department and after 1935 in the Graduate School of Business Administration. In 1945 he was named president of the University of New Mexico, and remained there until 1948, when he was dismissed by the Board of Regents due to a disagreement over the appointment of two faculty members whom Professor Wernette felt to be unqualified. In 1948 he came to the University of Michigan, where he was a professor at the Graduate School of Business Administration for 26 years. He founded the Michigan Business Review in 1949 and served as its editor until his retirement. He received the University of Michigan Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1965. After his retirement in 1974, he was Professor Emeritus of Business Administration and Editor Emeritus of the Michigan Business Review.
Professor Wernette's special interest in the economic relationship between government and business was reflected in his varied activities outside the academic sphere. He acted as an economic adviser to foreign governments, to the U.S. government, and to various businesses. In 1929, he served on a fiscal advisory commission to the Republic of Colombia, acting as an expert on taxation. In 1931, he was a member of the Kemmerer Commission, which provided fiscal advice to the Republic of Peru. During 1942 and 1943, he served on the Procurement Policy Board and was war goods price coordinator for the Office of Price Administration. In 1955, he acted as a State Department lecturer in South America.
Professor Wernette consistently maintained an optimistic outlook on the future of the economy, and from the early 1950s until his retirement, he shared this outlook with the business community through extensive travel and speeches. Until the early 1980s, he was also involved in several executive training programs (in particular, the University of Michigan's Executive Development Program). He also had a long-term relationship with the Ohio Citizens Trust Company of Toledo, Ohio, serving on the Board of Directors and as an economic consultant. Professor Wernette was the author of eight books and many articles. He died on August 12, 1988.