Harvard Business School Dean To Call It Quits

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Harvard Business School Dean NItin Nohria


Yet, one of his more lasting achievements could very well be his successor. While it’s not clear if Moon is even interested in the job, Nohria immediately her in a highly influential role to lead two of the most important initiatives of his deanship: the revamp of the MBA program and the launch of the school’s online learning platform. Her experience and her reputation would immediately put her high on the list of Nohria’s successors.

Lawrence Bacow, Harvard University president, said in a statement that he would soon initiate a search for a new dean. “I plan to seek broad input in seeking Nitin’s successor, and I will be reaching out to the HBS community for advice on the School’s opportunities and challenges and on the deanship,” he said. “For today, all of us owe Nitin our admiration and thanks for his outstanding service to HBS and to Harvard.”

Bacow, in a letter to the community, also expressed his “deep appreciation” to Nohria for his service as
“For much of his academic career,” he wrote, “Nitin has been an expert on effective leadership, and his own tenure as dean has been a case study in putting that expertise into practice. He has led HBS with vision and wisdom, a canny sense of organizational dynamics, a humane concern for others, and a relish for innovation. He has affirmed HBS’s longstanding commitment to educating leaders who will make a difference in the world, while pursuing that mission in imaginative new ways. With his colleagues, he has worked to renew the School’s curricula and teaching methods, to build the faculty and amplify the impact of their research, to broaden HBS’s global reach, and to enhance the sense of community and connectedness among students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“In all this, Nitin has been guided by a set of core values and a devotion to doing what is right, both for his School and for the people who are its lifeblood. His leadership has benefited not only HBS but the University more broadly. He has drawn HBS into new academic collaborations with other parts of Harvard. He has been a generous mentor and advisor to colleagues University-wide as well as a highly influential voice in our Academic Council. He has worked to attract essential support not just for HBS but for other Harvard schools. And within the past year he has taken on a central role in planning for the University’s envisioned enterprise research campus in Allston—a role in which I’m very pleased he will continue.”

Nohria earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (which honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2007) and a Ph.D. in Management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He was a visiting faculty member at the London Business School in 1996. He serves on the board of directors of Bridgespan and on the board of trustees of Massachusetts General Hospital; additionally, he serves as an advisor to BDT Capital Partners, Piramal Enterprises, and Tata Sons, on the advisory board of Akshaya Patra, and as a strategic advisor to Focusing Capital on the Long Term Global (FCLTGlobal). In his time at HBS he has taught thousands of students in the MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education programs.

What follows is his email to the school’s students, faculty and staff:


Dear members of the HBS community,

I am writing to let you know that I will step down as Dean of Harvard Business School on June 30, 2020, after a decade in this role. Serving as Dean has been a privilege for which I am immeasurably grateful. Little could I have imagined this opportunity when I joined the School’s faculty in 1988. As I know is true for so many of you, HBS changed the arc of my life.

I love this School and University and have tried to serve both as best I could. Early in my tenure, a colleague shared a maxim that I adopted as a daily reminder of my job’s purpose. It is from the Hebrew text Pirkei Avot, and its essence is, “You can never complete the work, nor must you abandon it.” In the same vein, former Dean John McArthur often reminded me that even today HBS remains “a delicate experiment.” Although I became Dean after we marked the School’s centennial, I have seen my role as continuing this delicate but enduring experiment. Our mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world has always been and continues to be ever so important. The work of educating leaders will never be complete, nor can we abandon it.

Yet the time feels right to transition to new leadership. Ten years gave us a good run to make progress on our Five I priorities. A decade for HBS’s tenth dean seems an appropriate duration for this chapter in the School’s history.

I will take a sabbatical when I step down to reflect on what I may do next. I look forward to supporting our next Dean, as my predecessors supported me. I will always remain devoted to this most extraordinary institution that I have been so lucky to call not just my place of work, but my family’s home.

I am deeply grateful for your extraordinary support. It has been a blessing to partner with faculty, staff, students, and alumni who care so much about HBS and are willing to give so much of themselves to it. And it has been inspiring, every day, to witness the many ways in which our community acts to solve society’s most pressing problems.

I hope to personally thank as many of you as I can in the months ahead for all you have done for me and the School.

For now, though, onward!


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