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Dean Of The Year: The Cajun From New Orleans

Paul Danos' fingerprints are on every aspect of the Tuck School of Business

Paul Danos’ fingerprints are on every aspect of the Tuck School of Business

When Paul Danos arrived in Hanover, N.H., to become dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, Google did not yet exist, Amazon hadn’t launched its online store, Steve Jobs was still two years away from returning to Apple, and Toyota had yet to launch the Prius. The horrific events of 9/11 could hardly be imagined nor could the Great Recession.

It was 1995, and the school that Danos agreed to lead as dean was, in the words of one of its most famous professors, Vijay Govindarajan, “in a vulnerable place, like a major league baseball team with a losing record.” Tuck had plunged to 13th place in Businessweek’s ranking in 1994, far from the top five ranking the school received on the magazine’s debut list six years earlier.

Some 20 years later, as Danos prepares to step down from the deanship on June 30th of next year, he will leave an institution that now has his deft fingerprints firmly implanted on every aspect of the school. “Paul Danos transformed Tuck’s faculty into a world-class academic powerhouse, built a gorgeous campus, raised a ridiculous amount of money, moved the school into the top of the rankings, and became the most trusted administrator at Dartmouth,” says Paul Argenti, a long-time Tuck professor of corporate communications. “We shall never see the likes of him again.”

A REMARKABLE RECORD OF PROGRESS

For his extraordinary 20-year tenure and for the vast improvements he has led at Tuck, Poets&Quants is naming Danos its Dean of the Year. Few leaders have had the kind of impact over a prestige institution. Roughly half of the B-school’s 10,000-plus living alumni will have graduated under Danos’ deanship, while 75% of the faculty have been hired with him in the dean’s office. At a time when the average term of a B-school dean is a mere three and one-half years, Danos has been the longest serving dean of any top business school in the world and has used that time wisely.

Under his watch, the school expanded the size and scope of its programs, adding nine centers and initiatives, a master’s in health care delivery, a fast-track summer business program for undergraduates, as well as an expansion of the B-school’s executive education portfolio. During his deanship, Danos also built up the school’s reputation for academic research by bringing in thought leaders such as Ken French in finance and Kevin Keller in marketing.

He grew the full-time faculty from 34 to 55 members, and increased full-time enrollment by a third, to four incoming sections of 60 students each from three when he arrived. Danos raised the school’s endowment from $59.2 million to $310 million, and he oversaw an increase in the participation rate of alums for Tuck’s annual giving campaign from 63%, when the effort raised $1.6 million, to an unprecedented 70% plus, with funds of $6.4 million. Most top ten business schools have giving rates in the 20% range. During his tenure, moreover, Tuck added about 145,000 additional new square feet of new world class buildings and renovated more than 100,000 square feet of existing space.

‘I DON’T THINK WE’LL EVER FIND SOMEBODY WHO WORKS SO SELFLESSLY’

“Overall, he has just improved the quality of the place on every single dimension, from the facilities to the students and faculty,” says Robert Hansen, senior associate dean who served as the chairman of the search committee that brought Danos on campus. “On every front, he has always tried to make the school better. I don’t think we’ll ever find somebody who so selflessly works for the institution.”

Yet, among Danos’ most lasting achievements is what he, in fact, didn’t change. Under his leadership, Tuck maintained and even built upon its unique and embracing culture: a smart, open, friendly place known for an esprit de corps that creates deep and enduring bonds among students, faculty, staff and alumni. Danos fit that culture like a glove, making himself always accessible, frequently walking the halls, creating recognition celebrations for staff, auctioning off for charity an annual crawfish dinner that he prepared for students, and maintaining an open-door policy.

“At any top school you get really smart students who are energized by what they are doing,” says Connie Helfat, a strategy professor who had taught at Wharton and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management before joining Tuck in 1998. “What’s unusual at Tuck is the loyalty they have to the place and the bonding they do with each other. I have never seen anything like this. It just permeates the place, and Paul has been fundamental to how well the school has done.”

Described by colleagues as a no-nonsense pragmatist, Danos is an unassuming gentleman, whose passions include writing and cartooning. In his office, where he works at a standup desk due to a weak back, one cabinet holds photographs of his wife, his two daughters and three grandchildren and dozens of his cartoons. He doodles mostly to gift his grandchildren with the cartoons on their birthdays or at Christmas. A favorite of his depicts a fluffy black sheep with the caption, “If one more person asks me, ‘Have you any wool?’ I am going to scream.”

20 Years At The Helm: How Tuck Has Changed Under Paul Danos

Attribute19952012
Size Of Entering Class180281
Average GMAT660716
International Students19%35%
Women Students31%32$
Size of Full-Time Faculty3455
Market Value of Endowment$59.2 million$310 million
Annual Gifts$1.6 million$6.4 million
% of Alumni Giving Annually63%70% plus
Square Footage of Buildings215,000360,000

Source: Tuck School of Business

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.