Former Disney Exec Is New Dean Of Santa Clara’s Leavey School

Ed Grier, Dean of the Leavey School of Business, poses for a portrait at Santa Clara University on Friday, March 26, 2021, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Photo by Jim Gensheimer)

Santa Clara University has turned to a former corporate executive of the Walt Disney Co. with business school leadership chops to to be the next dean of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business.

The university today (April 6) named named Ed Grier, 66, its new dean, effective this summer before the start of the new school year. Though Grier spent 29 years with Disney, including as president of the $2 billion, 20,000-employee Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., he made the transition to academia 11 years ago when he became dean of the School of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University. He took over VCU’s business school in 2010 when he left Disney, becoming one of the rare corporate executives to land a deanship.

At VCU, he guided the launch of an online MBA program, experience that will come in handy at Santa Clara whose own Online MBA program was recently ranked in the Top Ten by Poets&Quants. He also upped VCU’s commitment to experiential learning in both its undergraduate and graduate programs and created a Master of Decision Analytics Professional Track degree program.

In his new role at Santa Clara, Grier will manage a budget of $46 million and provide leadership to 89 tenure-track faculty, 25 renewable term faculty, more than 60 adjunct faculty, and 50 staff. The search for a new dean was assisted by the search firm of Witt/Kieffer where Grier has been a member of the board of directors for more than five years.


Grier succeeds Caryn Beck-Dudley, who left in June to become president and CEO of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the accrediting organization for business schools. Since her departure, the school has been led by interim dean Narendra Agrawal, a professor of information systems and analytics.

As Leavey’s dean, Grier is expected to build on Santa Clara University’s reputation for teaching, research, and innovative business education programs. “He plans to strengthen relationships, continue to raise national visibility, and generate new revenue streams for the long-term vitality of the School, all within the framework of Santa Clara’s Jesuit mission and values,” according to the announcement from the university.

“We are delighted to welcome Dean Grier to the Leavey School of Business,” said Santa Clara University Acting President Lisa Kloppenberg. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and a perspective from both academia and industry that will serve LSB well as it emerges from this pandemic year, strives to smartly leverage Silicon Valley corporate partnerships and SCU’s graduate programs, and build on its tradition of excellence in the teaching-scholar model.”


At VCU he oversaw the incorporation of the VCU Brandcenter and Center for Sport Leadership into the School of Business and the creation of an International Consulting Program for both master and undergraduate students. In addition to spearheading a successful School of Business capital campaign, Grier facilitated a partnership with the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy to provide three-day entrepreneurship training programs on four continents.

He served as interim vice president for development and alumni relations at VCU from March to September 2017, midway through the university’s $840 million capital campaign. In addition to participating on the steering committee for the university budget redesign, Grier has chaired several key university leadership search committees.

“I am thrilled about this opportunity to lead the Leavey School of Business at such an important and exciting time,” said Grier in a statement. “Santa Clara University’s values of preparing young men and women for leadership and service to the common good align exceptionally well with my personal values. I am eager to leverage my skills as a servant leader alongside the talented faculty and staff of Leavey School.”


A sought-after speaker on topics including diversity, leadership, and corporate creativity, Grier earned his B.A. in accounting from Duquesne University, becoming a certified public accountant while at Ernst & Ernst (now known as Ernst & Young) for four years before joining Disney.

Grier and his wife Valerie rejoin their three sons and their families, who all reside in California, after spending 11 years with VCU in Richmond, Va. Two of his sons, Josh and Mike, are co-founders of one of the only Black-owned gaming studios, Ember Lab.

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