At Wash U, A New Dean Does A Refresh

Olin Dean Mark Taylor


Those changes, Taylor points out, would come on top of the school’s considerable assets. “Olin Business School offers world class instruction, faculty that is second to none in the world and who are very approachable,” he says. “There is an intimacy in the classroom between faculty and students that would be hard to find elsewhere in top schools. Everyone who comes to Olin has a name and a story. You are well known by the faculty and supported by an excellent staff. That is one aspect of Olin that marks us out from our competitor schools.”

Though his career in finance has brought him to London, Washington, D.C., and New York, he says he now personally prefers St. Louis where he has comfortably settled in large brick home on dean’s row, just a few blocks from the business school. Obsessed with workmanship, Taylor has filled the house with 17th century clocks, including the very first clock made for domestic homes (he wears a replica of the watch that astronaut Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon in 1969). And, of course, books, including King Lear, MacBeth and other famous works of English Literature, that are strewn on nearly every table in the house. “There is nothing I want that I can’t find in St. Louis,” he maintains. ‘There is culture and entertainment, and there is accessibility. It feels to be me like one of the world’s great cities.

Taylor says that Midwestern values was also important to his decision to accept the deanship at Olin and pass up a couple of other opportunities in Singapore and California. “That was a key factor in my decision to come here,” he says. “Being based in the heartlands of the U.S., we understand the United States. There is this strong Midwestern culture which is very open. There is a strong work ethic. It is based on integrity and straightforwardness which I think is very valuable in business life. Rather than be a bolt on, ethics is intergrated in all our coursework. But amongst that midwestern culture there is also a very global outlook. It’s not by coincidence that Washington University appointed an international dean with international experience to lead its business school into the second century.”


The son of an auto worker, Taylor began his global journey from Warwickshire, the county in English famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. He showed much promise at school, achieving a perfect score on his final grades. His headmaster insisted that he turn down an offer from the London School of Economics. “You are too clever to do economics,” his headmaster lectured. “You must do English Literature and you must go to Oxford or Cambridge.”

As it turned out, however, Taylor read philosphy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford, but maintained a passion of sorts for English Lit. Many years later, in fact, he would get a master’s degree part-time from the University of Liverpool in English Romantic and Renaissance Literature. He is, almost assuredly, the only dean of a business school in the world who can not only freely recite the opening lines to John Milton’s Paradise Lost but can actually sing them to The Flintstones theme song.

Still, with his Oxford education behind him in 1990, Taylor took a job as a foreign exchange trader with Citi. Over the next four years, he also would earn both a master’s in economics and a PhD in international finance from the University of London. Thus began a career that has moved between industry and academia, as a professor at several schools and a variety of industry jobs that ranged from a research economist for the Bank of England to a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., to managing director of BlackRock’s global market strategies group.


“I’ve always gone between academia and industry and finance my entire career,” he says. “I’ve been in and out, naturally, and I think I can add value. I’ve spent years in industry and I am academic and still am. I love being published, and I know what a bottom line is. A hedge fund is a professional service organization not that different in many ways than being an academic organization. You are working with highly educated people. They are knowledge and idea producers. You can’t overtly tell people what to do in either environment. You have to persuade them and get them on board.”

Taylor was at BlackRock running a quantitative hedge fund with staffers in London, San Francisco and Sydney when the financial world began to unravel in 2008. Two years later, he was asked to take on the dean’s job at Warwick, where he has also been a professor of finance since 1999. In his six years as dean, Taylor improved the school’s undergraduate program, boosted its MBA program in the Financial Times’ rankings, substantially upped the school’s standing in academic research, opened a new campus in London at The Shard, launched an executive MBA program, and put the school on a solid financial footing.

Then came the opportunity to succeed Mahendra Gupta who had led Olin for nearly 11 years. Taylor makes the case for the school and for his own interest in the job. “We were one of the first business schools to be launched in the U.S. 100 years ago,” he points out. “We have grown from a tiny small class of 20 or so to one of the great business schools in the world, with extensions in Mumbai and Shanghai as well as in Washington, D.C., through the Brookings Institution. We are a full service school with a top-ranked undergraduate program, a leading MBA program, and a range of master’s programs, executive education, and a thriving doctoral program as well.”