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Why NYU Stern’s Dean Is Stepping Down

NYU Stern Dean Peter Henry. Courtesy photo

Less than 24 hours after the resignation of Michael Flynn, the nation’s top security adviser, the dean of New York University’s Stern School of Business has announced his resignation for an entirely different reason.

“I do not make this decision lightly,” Peter Henry, 47, said in a letter released today (February 14) by the university, “but given the current trends affecting the national and global economy, I feel compelled to re-engage now with policy and re-commit, full-time, to scholarship and my lifelong interest in the linked fortunes of advanced and developing economies.”

Henry was the youngest dean in the history of the Stern School when he stepped into that role in 2010. He will step down at the end of this calendar year.

“At a time when advanced-nation rhetoric and a seeming unwillingness to commit to the reforms needed for growth are at odds with global population trends and an increased need for investment in the developing world, I believe now is the time for me to make further contributions as an economist, adviser, and Stern professor,” Henry continued in the letter.

THE IMMIGRANT THAT GUIDED THE SCHOOL THROUGH FINANCIAL FALLOUT

The nation’s current political upheaval, potential global trade wars, and immigration bans likely have affected Henry personally. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he immigrated to the U.S. with his family and became a U.S. citizen in 1986. He earned degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Henry focused his research on global economics and emerging markets and countries — a focus that led him to leading an external economics advisory group for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. After Obama’s win, Henry was chosen to lead the transition team’s review of international industry agencies, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Immediately before his first B-school role at Stern, Henry was named to Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

“Peter arrived at Stern in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis with its negative impact on public sentiment toward business and on applications to MBA programs,” NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a separate letter from the university. “True to Stern’s mission, however, Peter embraced these challenges and has turned them into opportunities to increase the excellence, affordability, and relevance of a Stern education.”

Indeed, hiring Henry, who had no formal B-school experience, was a risk for Stern. A school geographically and fundamentally close to Wall Street was likely experiencing a bit of shell-shock from the financial fallout when Henry took over in January of 2010. The school also had zero undergraduate scholarships and had not raised more than $40 million in a given year in its nearly 100-year history. But Henry has filled the cupboards. From his arrival in 2010 to the end of fiscal year 2016, he has raised more than $225 million — more than any other previous Stern dean. Each of the past three years, the school has raised more than $40 million. And the school had its highest fundraising year ever in 2016, raising $54.6 million. The additional funds have led to 37 full scholarships at Stern.

“Access to higher education for the most-qualified students, regardless of their means, motivated Peter’s fundraising,” Hamilton said. “Of the record-breaking funds raised last year, $45.7 million went toward scholarships, allowing the creation of Stern’s Breakthrough Scholars Program, which benefits Pell Grant-eligible families and has successfully brought many first-generation college students from under-represented minority groups to Stern. So far, under Peter’s leadership, the Stern School has contributed upwards of $133 million to the NYU Momentum Scholarship Campaign, the most of any school at the university.”

INNOVATIONS IN HUMAN RIGHTS, SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS, AND FINTECH

But perhaps more importantly to the global business education world, Henry has led curricular innovations. In 2014, Michael Posner, one of the country’s leaders in human rights, teamed up with fellow State Department veteran Sarah Labowitz to establish the school’s Center for Business and Human Rights — the first of its kind at an elite B-school. Since then, schools like the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business have followed with similar initiatives. Henry also oversaw the establishment of Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business and the Urbanization Project, and last June the school announced a fintech (financial technology) specialization featuring eight elective courses in the area. It was also the first fintech-focused specialization at an elite B-school.

“When I arrived at Stern in 2010, we were thick in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and, as a business school renowned for its expertise in finance and its proximity to Wall Street, Stern stood at a critical juncture,” Henry said in today’s letter. “Over the past seven-plus years, together we doubled down on existing strengths and achieved new heights in areas where we were lagging, notably fundraising.”

Henry also touted the school’s claim to three Nobel Prize winners — up from one when he arrived — as well as 20 new board members and renewed relationships and partnerships with tech companies, venture capital firms, and luxury and fashion brands.

ONE MORE GO AT THE RANKINGS AFTER THE U.S. NEWS SNAFU

Rankings-wise, Stern’s goof in the most recent U.S. News ranking likely stings a little. The school forgot to include one data point out of some 300 that U.S. News asks schools to report. Forgetting to include how many students in the incoming class took the GMAT caused Stern to plunge from the 10th and 11th places it had been enjoying for the previous five years to 20th in 2016. Still, the drop probably says more about U.S. News’ stubbornness and lack of foresight than the school’s actual reputation. Stern also dropped from ninth to 14th in the most recent Economist ranking, but rose from 24th to 17th in the most recent Bloomberg Businessweek ranking. The volatility evened out in the Poets&Quants’ composite ranking, where Stern slipped one spot from 16th to 17th.

Statistically speaking, full-time MBA acceptance rates at Stern have consistently risen, going from 18.1% in 2014 to 20% in 2015 to 23% in the most recent entering class. Meanwhile, average GMAT scores dropped after hovering between 719 and 721 over the past five years, falling to 710 this year.

It is noteworthy that Henry is the second black dean to step down recently from an elite B-school deanship. Late last summer, David Thomas, dean of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, cited similar social justice issues in his decision to resign his position. A scholar of the Civil Rights Movement, Thomas also resumed a role as a researcher and professor to tackle social issues through research and scholarship.

DEAN OF THE BASKETBALL COURT

Hamilton says the university will quickly start a search for Henry’s successor.

“We shall in short order form a search committee to conduct an international search for Peter’s successor,” Hamilton wrote in his letter. “The committee will naturally include strong representation from Stern’s faculty, student and administrator representatives from Stern, as well as other representatives from the NYU community. We shall write again soon with more details about that process as we hope to have a successor in place by the time Peter steps down.”

Henry, who could often be found on a university basketball court, said one of his greatest joys in being a dean was getting to know his students.

“The progress we have made would not have materialized without invaluable guidance, assistance, and support from all quarters, and I look forward to expressing my admiration and gratitude for each of you personally in the coming months. The points of pride mentioned above belong to us collectively, and I am equally certain that success will continue to accrue as a result of our collaborations.”

DON’T MISS: WHY U.S. NEWS WHACKED NYU STERN; NYU STERN LOOKS TO BOOST VETERAN RANKS; or MEET NYU STERN’S MBA CLASS OF 2018