Tuck in Transition: Longtime Dean Danos Announces Retirement Plans

Sunday, March 30, 2014
Hanover — When Paul Danos was recruited in 1995 to be its dean, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth was losing its luster at a time when revolutionary changes were emerging in business and finance.

“Tuck dropped from the top 10 (in rankings of) business schools to about 16th,” recalled Vijay Govindarajan, the Coxe Distinguished Professor of Management, who was a member of the Tuck committee that recruited Danos from the University of Michigan. “We were in a vulnerable place,” he said, “like a major league baseball team with a losing record.”

Danos, 71, who announced last week that he will retire next year, faced a rapidly changing world with enormous consequences for the way business schools educate students.

The World Wide Web was largely an abstraction. Mark Zuckerberg was 11. Amazon was in its infancy. Economic powers China, India and Brazil were just emerging. Most of the students at Tuck, which bills itself as the oldest institution of its kind in the world, were male and white.

“Today, Amazon is one of the biggest employers of our students,” Danos said during an interview in his Tuck office on Thursday, as he reflected on his leadership of the school over almost 20 years — the longest tenure in Tuck’s history and one of the longest in management education, according to a school news release. By the time he steps down, about half of the 10,000 or so living Tuck alumni will have graduated during his tenure, the release said.

Tuck, with its two-year MBA program, is now near the top of many business school rankings — No. 2 according to the The Economist (behind the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago), No. 6 on the Forbes list, No. 9 on the U.S. News & World Report list, No. 12 on Bloomberg Businessweek ’s list, and in the top 10 for best campus environment, best professors, best classroom experience and best career prospects, among several other categories, according to The Princeton Review.

These results are due in no small part to the vision and determination of Danos, a self-described “Cajun from New Orleans,” who, although trained academically as an accountant, confesses an abiding “passion for writing and drawing cartoons.”

“Several people told us in 1995 that we should take a close look at Paul because he had that rare combination — clear vision and an ability to implement effectively,” said Robert Hansen, senior associate dean at Tuck and chairman of the committee that recruited Danos. “He knew then how important technology would be and that globalization, the integration of the world economy, was inevitable.”

At the time, Danos was a senior associate dean at the University of Michigan with little knowledge of Northern New England.

“When he learned of Tuck’s interest, he asked his wife, Mary Ellen, to get out the family atlas to see where Hanover was,” Hansen said. “There was no Google in those days.”

Danos, a trim, soft-spoken man with a thick shock of gray hair, said his focus from the start at Tuck was to “put the students first and to achieve a careful balance between teaching excellence and research, relevant research. We also want to produce graduates with global knowledge and with heart, caring about improving society.”

Tuck now has global reach, with 31 percent of its almost 600 students coming from outside the United States. Today, 16 percent of Tuck students are minorities and about a third are women. (See related graphic, page C5.)

Danos, who earned almost $620,000 in salary and benefits in 2011, according to the college’s 2012 tax filings, spends about a third of his time traveling to promote Tuck. He estimates that, during his tenure as dean, he has flown between 2 million and 3 million miles. “Our alumni are invaluable for networking with global corporations, donors, helping to recruit students,” Danos said. Tuck has alumni boards in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

“When I go to Tokyo, for example, I am fully programmed for several days … meetings with business people, alumni, government officials, prospective students,” he said.

While other business schools have expanded aggressively into executive and doctoral programs, as well as the “massive open online courses” known as MOOCs, Tuck, the smallest of the Ivy League business schools, has focused mainly on the full-time MBA.

The number of full-time faculty has risen from 36 to 51 since Danos became dean. Only recently has the school launched a degree program in health care delivery science, in collaboration with the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. The program uses a blended model of online training with face-to-face residency periods at Tuck. Mid-career health specialists from the United States and many foreign countries participate.

“We want to stay world-class, but we also plan to remain small, to preserve that special Tuck intimacy,” Danos said.

This was confirmed by a Tuck student from India, Mandakini Saroop. She is scheduled to graduate this year and plans to move to Seattle, where she has a job as an Amazon product manager waiting for her.

“This place is amazing,” she said of Tuck. “Everyone is so supportive and accessible. When I took the job at Amazon, I got calls from Tuck alums working there, people I didn’t know.”

Danos uses a computer on a stand-up desk in his office — “It’s good for my back,” he said — with a large portrait of Edward Tuck peering down from the wall above a small fireplace. In 1900, Tuck, a Dartmouth graduate and expatriate investor, provided a gift that made possible the creation of a “school of business administration” in memory of his father, Amos, a founder of the Republican Party and a close friend to President Abraham Lincoln.

Danos’ eyes light up when he talks about his cartoons, which he calls his “passion.” From a cabinet holding photographs of his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren he pulls out a large plastic bag. Inside are dozens of colorful cartoons, mainly humorous in style of The New Yorker. He gives them mostly to his grandchildren on birthdays or at Christmas.

One of his favorites depicts a large, fluffy black sheep with the caption, “If one more person asks me, ‘Have you any wool?’ I am going to scream.”

He says he frequently gets up at 4 a.m. to write, “mainly essays and stories about growing up in Cajun country. I used to love listening to the old-timers talking in French about our people who came from Nova Scotia to Louisiana.” He has produced a book of Cajun stories, The Other Side of the River.

After he steps down, in June 2015, Danos plans to stay in the Hanover area, continue writing, teaching at Tuck and serving on one or two corporate boards.

Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon plans to appoint a search committee and to have Tuck’s 10th dean named early in 2015.

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