The 2014 B-School ‘Nice Guys’ List


Were you naughty or nice?

In the media, we tend to play up the negative angles. To use a holiday term, we stuff coal into everyone’s stockings. Maybe we’re natural grinches. Then again, like most, maybe we take selfless gestures and courageous acts for granted.

So let’s step back today. Let’s recognize those individuals or groups who are so committed to principle that they act on them. Let’s honor their strength. Let’s celebrate their achievements. Most important, let’s follow their example.

If you believe in Santa Claus, you can be assured that b-school alumni, administrators, students, and supporters would make his ‘nice’ list. But ten individuals or groups truly stood out in 2014. Whether they freely gave their talents, inspired their peers, or challenged the status quo, they set a high standard that won’t be easy to match. Here are their stories”

Dean Nitin Nohria

Dean Nitin Nohria

10) Dean Nitin Nohria, Harvard Business School: HBS’ bourbon-soaked SectionX subculture produces plenty of headlines, creating the impression of a campus overrun by dilettantes. What’s more, many female alumni and faculty have admitted to feeling like outsiders at the school. In many organizations, leaders would deny the issue exists, defensively circling the wagons and lashing out at critics. In 2014, Dean Nohria decided to take the road less traveled.

At a January gathering of Harvard alumni and friends in San Francisco, Nohria admitted that there were times when Harvard women felt “disrespected, left out, and unloved for the school.” Then he did something altogether unexpected: He apologized. “I’m sorry on behalf of the business school. The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better.” While the apology – and the school’s efforts to revamp its culture – hasn’t placated some critics, give Nohria credit for airing the school’s dirty laundry and tackling the issues head on.

Jon Fuller of Clear Admit

Jon Fuller of Clear Admit

9) Jon Fuller, Ivan Kerbel, Sandy Kreisberg and Andrew Geller: If you follow Poets&Quants, you know exactly who these people are. For a year or more, they’ve been fielding reader questions related to admissions, career, and GMAT strategy. And they share their expertise at no charge! Known for their quick responses, detail and candor, these men provide guidance and reassurance at a time when readers are making life-changing decisions. They truly epitomize excellence in their respective specialties.


Ed Warrington

Al Warrington

8) School Donors: 2014 won’t go down as the year of big business school gifts. You won’t find any David Booths or Stephen Rosses lavishing nine figure donations. However, waste management magnet Al Warrington dropped another $75 million on the University of Florida’s College of Business. And investor Thomas J. Barrack Jr. chipped in $15 million to the University of South California’s Marshall School of Business. Don’t forget the $721 million that HBS raised this year, either.

These numbers may seem like a drop in the bucket to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but they go a long way to funding scholarships, research and better facilities. If the holiday season is a time for gratitude, school donors have earned a big shout out from alumni, students, faculty, and administrators. Over the years, they’ve made so much possible that goes unnoticed.

Dean Richard Lyons of UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business

Dean Richard Lyons of UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

7) Richard Lyons, University of California-Berkeley (Haas): ‘If you don’t write or speak about something, you probably don’t care about it.’ Well, that’s one explanation. Another is that you fear criticism or retaliation. Worse yet, you might be dismissed as a Pollyanna. Thankfully, Richard Lyons, dean of the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, isn’t afraid to speak his mind. And his message – that half of American business schools could shut down in the next decade – is one to heed.

Digital disruption isn’t a futurist fantasy. It has already established a beachhead, if not scaled the surrounding hills. To protect their cash cows, many business schools will need to adjust their delivery and curriculum and differentiate their programs. And that takes leadership, commitment, and sacrifice. If Lyons’ prophecy is fulfilled, schools can’t say they weren’t warned.

Haifa AlHumaid

Haifa AlHumaid

6) Haifa AlHumaid, Babson College (Olin): Ever get a rejection from a business school? Just walk in AlHumaid’s shoes, where she was denied the opportunity to even apply. A Saudi national, AlHumaid is a case study in persistence. For four years, she lobbied her protective father for permission to study abroad. Over that time, she built a company’s accounting and compliance operation from scratch before spending a year at a non-profit.

Eventually, AlHumaid’s father relented. In 2014, she earned her MBA from Babson – and is looking to launch her own social enterprise. For AlHumaid, the biggest change wasn’t what she learned in the classroom. “Eight years ago, I was super shy. It was hard for me to mingle and socialize, but after Babson I have a lot more confidence in myself.” Hopefully, AlHumaid can take that same pluck and confidence back to the women of Saudi Arabia.

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