2013 Dean Of The Year: Rotman’s Roger Martin

Roger Martin recently stepped down after a highly successful run as dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management

Roger Martin recently stepped down after a highly successful run as dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management


Transformation is an overused word. It is pulled out of the dictionary to describe some pretty ordinary things. But that is not the case for either Roger Martin or the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

In the 15 years that Martin led Rotman, he utterly transformed the institution from a small, irrelevant Canadian B-school to a legitimate global player. More tellingly, much of the transformation can be chalked up to Martin’s force of will, his formidable intellect, and his bold and often provocative decisions that have indisputably made Rotman the best business school in Canada. Martin’s transformational accomplishments earn him Dean of the Year honors from Poets&Quants for 2013, and the first dean who is no longer in the job to be given the accolade. He joins Harvard Business School’s Nitin Nohria and the University of Virgina’s Darden School Dean Robert Bruner in Poets&Quants’ Hall of Fame.

At the end of this past June, the 56-year-old Martin completed one of the most successful deanships in recent memory. During his stint, the former strategy consultant for Monitor Co. doubled the physical space of the school, quadrupled the endowment, increased the size of the faculty to 113 from 30 and the Rotman staff to 300 from 60, and boosted the student population by 300%.


He raised more than $250 million for the school, reeling in eight eight-figure gifts–roughly a third of the 25 eight-figure donations the entire university has received in its 175-year history. The school’s annual budget is now $130 million, up from a little more than $13 million when he became dean in the fall of 1998.

Many agree that what Martin has accomplished makes him one of a handful of the most successful business schools deans in the past quarter century. Sally Blount, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, puts Martin in the company of such transformational leaders as Donald Jacobs, who had put Kellogg on the map years earlier.  “Rotman has surpassed every expectation I ever had,” says Joseph Rotman, a entrepreneur and benefactor whose name is on the business school.

And yet, when he took the job, Martin faced, as one insider now puts it, “myriad institutional forces that make his success all the more improbable and impressive. As the title of his latest book says, the man ‘plays to win.’”


Salaries were one big hurdle. When Martin arrived, Rotman had been hemorrhaging faculty. Though it had 48 approved positions, it only had 36 full-time, tenure stream faculty members. The school had lost a dozen professors over the previous couple of years, largely because Rotman—which then ran at a deficit—paid roughly 50% of the prevailing rate of the top 50 U.S. schools. As soon as a professor achieved some distinction in a field of expertise, he or she was quickly poached by another school who could pay more.

For Martin, the trick was to figure out how to hire top-notch business professors with no money to do so. His answer to the puzzle? “5-4-4-2” It stood for the following goals: quintuple the endowment, quadruple tuition, quadruple revenue from executive education and double the size of the MBA cohort—all in five years. Those goals would allow Rotman to hire world class faculty at world class salaries.

“Most thought it insane,” admits an insider. “But under Roger’s leadership the school did it – and that was followed by a further 50% increase in the cohort and another doubling of tuition. The strategy allowed Martin to build a world class faculty that routinely churns out leading edge research.


In fact, the most recent Financial Times’ ranking of schools whose professors publish the most articles in the top 45 academic and practitioner journals shows that Rotman is the highest ranked school outside the the U.S. At ninth in the world on the FT’s research analysis, Rotman is tied with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School.

And although rankings show Rotman trailing York University’s Schulich School of Business as the best Canadian institution offering a full-time MBA program, the lag effect inherent in ranking systems makes it all but certain that Rotman will soon be recognized as Canada’s leading business school. It already has the highest rank of any Canadian school in The Financial Times.

And yet, Martin himself admits that if he had any idea what it was like to be a business school dean he would have turned the job down. “In truth,” he says, “I didn’t super want the job. I knew nothing about it. I was clueless and minding my own business. If I had known what I know now about the job, I never would have taken it.”

  • currentStudent

    As a current student here I never thought I would feel compelled to talk bad about my school, but no matter how hard I’ve tried for the last 3 months to look on the bright side, I just cant because there is not much to this school. Honestly, save your money and don’t come to Rotman. They lure you in with the fancy building and fancy marketing, heck even the AdCOM are remarkable people, however that is all you get. Pretty wrapping. Especially now that they are growing the program from 250 to 400 students (260 in 2012, 350 in 2014) to pay for that pretty wrapping, everything is suffering. For starters it feels like undergrad all over again, it is 110% about getting that right answer in the test box to beat the curve. They really care or don’t grade on anything else other than your ability to pop the right answer (to three decimal points) into the test box. You are paying big bucks to get basically an undergraduate level education in business. Apart from 2 out of the 8 professors I’ve had, all 6 have had impressive credentials, but could not teach to save their lives. I really don’t give a crap if you got your PHD from the LSE if you get upset when a student asks you a clarifying question, or if you put together questions that need to have upwards of 10 clarifying emails sent out to the entire student body. In essense, on the academic side the goal of Rotman if not to teach you to be a better Manager, Leader or Analyst….but to fail and trick you so that they can stick to their beloved BellCurve. Unless you already have a business background do NOT expect to learn anything here. Two faculty members have been outstanding, the rest at best mediocre. I have to google most of the concepts I need to know, because the textbooks don’t go into key things, and professors gloss over key details, and talk as if they were talking to an audience with decades of business experience. Rotman Culture- also pretty shitty – no sense of community, highly clickey and fragemented, highly judgey, clubs and career centrer focused on punishing you and telling how not to dress or what not to say ALL the time instead of empowering you to grow your leadership potential and gain confidence to be successful in the real world which is requiring people who don’t just understand numbers but who can lead and influence. The student body is truly comprised of immature, inexperienced number crunchers, with very limited emotional intelligence and leadership experience. Be prepared for things to feel like high school all over again. Granted there is a handful of more advanced and well-rounded individuals but they are the huge exception to the rule, and if you are one of them you will feel like you will have to stoop to a whole new level to get by. Rotman has a long way to go on so many fronts. The new dean seems very mediocre compared to Roger Martin. Id get a refund on my tuition if I can.

  • Tim Chak

    You seem to have missed what the article was saying about the state of the school before Martin joined Rotman. If you looked at their average GMAT scores in the time he has been dean, I think you can also see that they went from being a nobody to attracting the top talent from all over the world. That’s a pretty big achievement IMO.

  • GTA-Observer

    Not to take anything from Martin, he was clearly a good dean but… UofT is always ranked top 20 in the world, Rotman is in one of NA’s largest metro areas, Canada’s banks have over preformed (largest employers of Canada’s MBA’s) 3 Metro stops away from Rotman, and UofT (80,000+ Students) has ridicules financial resources. Rotman has everything going for it, was it possible to fail?

  • K!-Mink

    Are you being nitpicky or jealous? For what he did, he deserves praise, the article clearly says he brought in ingredients for success, call it begging alumni, but few succeed doing it. By the way that’s how dean Snyder brought Booth to what it is today. Look into the future and see how Rotman alumni are performing in the job market then you can be so rude, else it doesn’t make sense criticizing per sei.
    Being able to retain the best faculty definitely is part of making a transformative experience. Well, so much could be said, but you are downplaying too much into what should be celebrated.

  • Galquim

    No achievements IMO. If this was a company, great, he grew revenue. But as an educational institution it should be measured by other things.
    Increasing your spending (e.g., on a big campus) by raising tuition and begging alumni for money does not constitute success for me. Success would be having successful alumni both in the business and non-business world (e.g., NGOs). All this article said he did was hiring expensive professors. Maybe he also did other things but the article doesn’t mention this.

    Also, their FT overall ranking is still middle of the pack at 44 (it’s easy to cherry pick one single dimension such as published articles. Nearly every B-school will have one dimension they do well).

  • asda

    He really has singlehandedly put Rotman on the map

  • Pravin

    Wow such a stupendous personality! This gives me yet another reason to be a part of Rotman!

  • Andrew Shipilov

    I joined Rotman PhD program in 2000 and graduated in 2005. I saw firsthand the changes made by Roger and his team. Thank you Roger for increasing the brand value of the school!