Dean Of The Year: The Three-Peat Change Agent

The new home of Yale University 's School of Management - photo by Chris Choi

The new home of Yale University ‘s School of Management – photo by Chris Choi


The end result: A school that is run more like a finely-tuned business than an academic institution. “The school has become more professional,” says SOM finance professor Nicholas Barberis. “It used to be run a little more like a family business. Ted brought with him a great reputation. The new building has made a difference and the mission of the school has started to resonate.”

Though Snyder has done what no one ever has—successfully run three highly prominent schools—his early career showed little sign that he was destined to become a three-peat change agent in management education. He picked up an undergraduate degree in 1975 from Colby College, where he had majored in economics and government, and then a master’s in public policy from the Unversity of Chicago in 1978.

“I didn’t have a plan for life,” explains Snyder. “My dad was a World War II pilot and entrepreneur who gave up his business and had a very religious phase, got into civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movement. My mother was a teacher of history and music in public schools. I’ve got that in my family tree.”


Yet, Snyder began his professional career as an economist with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. He switched gears in 1982, joining the University of Michigan’s business school as a faculty member who ended up becoming MBA core course coordinator for Applied Microeconomics. Snyder returned to Chicago go earn a PhD in economics in 1984, climbing the academic ladder at Michigan where he developed programs in Central Europe, China, India, and Russia.

The notion of becoming a business school dean occurred early, though not from Snyder. His thesis advisor at the University of Chicago told him that he should be a dean. “I didn’t even have my PhD at the time,” recalls Snyder. “And at Michigan, as an assistant professor, I was told the same thing. I really enjoy what business schools do. It’s a mini-university. You get to innovate and respond to the market. There is a lot of competition, and the students and alumni keep you focused on the slope, the trajectory.”

After a three-year stint as a senior associate dean who ran all of Michigan’s MBA programs as well as its undergraduate school, Snyder won his first deanship at UVA’s Darden School in 1998. Over a three-year stint, he led an expansion of the school’s MBA program, worked to improve the diversity of the student body, and significantly increased the school’s executive education efforts. Snyder also brought in what was then the largest gift in business school history, Frank Batten Sr.’s $60 million gift to set up the Batten Institute.


He moved to the University of Chicago in 2001. From July of that year to July of 2010, Snyder led the school to increasing prominence and favor. He reeled in the largest gift to any business school ever–$300 million—nearly doubling the school’s endowed professorships, tripling scholarship assistance, and increasing the school’s endowment from $197 million to $475 million, not including the impact of David Booth’s gift. Chicago Booth moved from 10th in the Businessweek rankings to 1st and held onto its No. 1 status for eight years. The Economist also ranked Booth at the top of its list twice during his tenure. No less impressive, Booth ranked in the top 10 in 74 of 78 rankings during his deanship.

After accepting the deanship at Yale SOM, long a small and quirky institution that rarely competed with the business schools of other Ivies, Snyder chose not to jump into the job immediately. Instead, he took a year off to refresh and create a viable vision and strategy for the school. “I talked to a lot of thoughtful people,” he says. Out of those conversations came a plan that focued on three core objectives: To be the business school that smartly leverages its home university; to be the most global U.S. business school in ways that are differentiating and meaningful, and to be recognized as the best source of leaders for all sectors and regions.

That last insight was crucial because both students and alumni cherish the notion that SOM was founded with the dual mission of producing leaders for both the social sector and business. “The school benefited from a focus beyond the business sector,” says Snyder. “Today, I don’t think of this as segmented as they used to be becuase over the course of one’s career they will move across the sectors. That’s why the founding mission was so valuable to us. The world is coming to our point of view. It’s been useful DNA to carry forward.”

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