A B-School Dean for the Guinness Book of Records

by John A. Byrne on

Tuck School Dean Paul Danos is the longest-serving dean of any highly ranked business school. (Photo by Joseph Mehling)

Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business for the past 16 years, can’t seem to get enough. The longest-serving B-school dean of any top-20 school has signed up for his fifth four-year term.

Jokes Danos: “I’m getting into the Guinness Book of Records, going on 16 plus four. Time flies.”

In an era when the average tenure of a B-school dean is less than five years, the 65-year-old Danos has astutely led Tuck not merely through a time of dramatic change at the school, but also through numerous market booms and busts, fads and trends, and serious criticism of the degree and the people who have it.

It is easy to underestimate the impact of an individual on an institution, particularly a dean whose impracticable job has accurately been described as one of “herding cats.” Yet over the past 16 years, Danos has welcomed to the school and ultimately sent into the world more than 40 percent of Tuck’s nearly 9,000 living alumni. He has recruited and hired roughly 85% of the school’s 50 professors. Danos also has raised more than $250 million to help foot the bill for, among other things, a 50% increase in the size of the faculty and vast improvements in the school’s facilities so that half of Tuck’s 11 connected buildings are either new or completely renovated.

PRESERVING TUCK’S CLOSE-KNIT CULTURE OF AFFECTION AND COLLABORATION

Yet, he also has been able to preserve and build upon Tuck’s unique close-knit culture of affection and collaboration—an environment that produces such unusual loyalty that 67% of alumni annually reach into their pockets to support the school, more than any other B-school in the world. (In contrast, annual alumni giving at the top 20 business schools average less than 20%).

Tuck’s highly supportive alumni network helped to get 97% of last year’s class job offers within three months of graduation—tops among the best B-schools in a still difficult job market.  Danos takes little credit for the remarkable cohesion among alumni through the years. “You can’t invent the love affair people have with Tuck,” he says. “That whole cultural, social network of helping each other you can’t get easily, and it’s always been a part of the school’s tradition.”

In the May 12th  official announcement of Danos’ reappointment, Dartmouth Provost Carol Folt said the dean received “an overwhelming show of support and admiration from the Tuck community for his vision and leadership. Dean Danos has advanced Tuck to a position of international distinction among the world’s greatest business schools.”

Folt’s comments are echoed by Tuck faculty. “Paul Danos has been an amazing dean for Tuck,” says Paul Argenti, who has been a professor of corporate communications at Tuck since 1981.  “He moved the school into the top-tier in terms of reputation externally, integrated a disparate group of faculty, raised the research profile of the school through strategic hires, and created a coherent and highly successful strategy over the last 16 years. I cannot imagine the Tuck School without Paul, and I’m happy to say that I don’t have to think about that for another four years.”

And as the senior statesman on the B-school circuit, he also wins plaudits for sharing his deep expertise on the business of business schools. Richard Lyons, dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, worked closely with Danos on an external review of the Yale School of Management. “His deep experience allowed him to get to the heart of the issues extremely quickly,” says Lyons. “Paul was perhaps the first Dean of another school I spoke with upon becoming dean at Berkeley-Haas.I did, and Paul was very generous with his time and coaching.”

When Danos arrived at Tuck in 1995, the school had carved out a reputation for providing a world-class MBA education in an intimate and immersive setting, with some of the most outstanding teachers in business education. It was not, however, especially known for producing exceptional academic research in scholarly journals.

Coming from a more traditional business school, the University of Michigan, where Danos initially taught accounting and later emerged as senior associate dean, he immediately sought to draft the kind of faculty that would give Tuck scholarly cred. He has brought in such thought leaders as Ken French in finance, Kevin Keller in marketing, Connie Helfat in business policy and strategy, and Matt Slaugher in international economics. They supplement a cadre of veteran stars that range from Paul Argenti and strategist Richard D’Aveni to innovation guru Vijay Govindarajan and leadership expert Sydney Finkelstein.

THERE HAVE BEEN CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS BY DANOS

Even in his early interviews with the search committee that recommended his hire, Danos expressed a commitment to one agenda: balancing academic research with exceptional teaching. “He focused on how to improve Tuck’s standing on academic research without diluting our teaching,” said Govindarajan, who served on the search panel. “Our teaching was outstanding but our academic research was a step down.”

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  • Momo

    Great article! Some of the info here enhances the Dartmouth profile in the B-School smackdown. My interest in Tuck has been rekindled (if only New Hampshire wasn’t so cold :S )

  • Argento

    Completely agree with Momo!

  • JD

    I’ve met Danos, and I was left with a meh after meeting him…

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