Andrew Ainslie, 62, who served as dean of the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester as well as an associate dean at UCLA Anderson, has died from a cave diving accident.
An avid adventurer who flew planes and gliders and spent a decade diving in caves for up to 12 hours, Ainslie left Simon at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. At the time, he noted that his wife, Teri Rueb, had recently assumed a significant role as a professor and department chair in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
“We found that we are leading this bizarre life where we are spending a lot of time we are on the phone when we’re not together and too much time on our laptops when we are with each other,” says Ainslie. “We are sort of yin and yang. I am an economist, and she is an artist. She started in Boulder in August of last year and has been there for a year. But of course she has been in academia for most of her career.”
‘Devastated By The Loss Of Our Colleague, Friend, Leader & Mentor’
Ainslie was one of the few deans who truly understood the business of business education as a keen strategist and an astute marketer. He was an avid and passionate supporter of the MBA, writing an essay in defense of its value when applications were on the decline (see Making The Case For Business School, Right Now or Why The MBA Remains An Awesome Investment).
In a statement shared with Poets&Quants, Ainslie’s successor, Dean Sevin Yeltekin, says the school is “devastated by the loss of our colleague, friend, leader, and mentor, former Dean and Professor of Marketing, Andrew Ainslie.
“Andrew’s passion for graduate management education was evident in his many accomplishments at Simon Business School, including pioneering STEM designation and prioritizing the student experience,” says Yeltekin, who succeeded Ainslie in July 2020. “He set wildly ambitious goals for the school, and in a relatively short period of time accomplished them all.
“Andrew was brilliant, authentic, had a wonderful sense of humor, and was great fun to be around. He was passionate about our students and our Simon community. Personally, he has been a friend, supporter, and sounding board since I took the reins from him in July 2020. It is hard to fathom that he is no longer with us.”
Rebekah Lewin, senior assistant dean of admissions at Simon, remembered him as a passionate champion of students. “This showed in so many ways – launching the first STEM-designated MBA program in the U.S., hosting an international immersion trip to South Africa, countless dinners and parties at his beautiful home on the lake (complete with cooking for students and access to the wine cellar), and even taking students flying,” she recalled in a LinkedIn post.
Lewin wrote that Ainslie often visited her office when he was on campus. “He wanted to be a visible leader with drop-in visits,” she added. “Although the COVID pandemic was at the tail end of his Deanship, he leaned in during the final few months and showed amazing leadership to the Simon staff – providing resilience, laughter, care, and support as we all experienced a forced work-from-home lockdown that challenged the very nature of how we delivered an MBA and MS educational experience.”
Ainslie Had Escaped A Couple Of ‘Harrowing’ & ‘Near-Fatal’ Cave Dives Before
Only last year, a bearded Ainslie appeared on a Zoom webinar for the Soaring Society of Boulder during which he spoke about the psychology of dealing with emergencies when flying. During that session, he revealed that he had escaped “a couple of sticky situations” that were “harrowing” and “near-fatal” while solo cave diving for between three and 12 hours. Ainslie was an experienced cave diver, having more than ten years of experience underwater.
He was apparently diving in Ginnie Springs in Florida yesterday (April 12) when the accident occurred. News of his disappearance appeared on a website devoted to scuba diving. “We dove together many times, a wonderful person,” wrote Malibou Jerry on ScubaBoard.com. “I am deeply saddened by this news.” Yet another poster from San Diego stated, “Not sure on the specifics just yet, but he was an experienced technical/cave diver, who happened to be a friend of mine.”
The former senior associate dean of the MBA program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Ainslie became the seventh dean of the Simon Business School in May of 2014 and had been reappointed to a second five-year term that began in early July. During his time at Simon, Ainslie led strategic curriculum and recruitment changes, including reducing the program offerings to sharpen the focus of the admissions, faculty, career placement, and administrative staff. He has also concentrated on the expansion of the undergraduate business program, and has worked with faculty to move the Simon School from quarters to semesters to better meet student needs.
Led Simon To An MBA Program Of The Year Honor
Ainslie also made the bold decision in 2015 to cut the total tuition of its prestigious full-time, two-year MBA program by 13.6 percent, a move that resulted in an increase in both global and domestic applications. He froze tuition rates for three years after the cut. Simon’s full-time MBA program is ranked 39th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants.
But Ainslie’s most significant accomplishment may well be his leadership in making the Simon School the first U.S. business school to gain full STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) designation for its full-time MBA program. The innovation put Simon in a stronger position to attract candidates from outside the U.S. by allowing international MBA graduates, who can now hold U.S. jobs for only 12 months, to remain stateside for an additional 24 months after graduation. Poets&Quants named Rochester’s MBA experience the MBA Program of the Year in 2018. The move helped Simon keep its MBA application volume stable this year while most other MBA programs have suffered significant declines.
While at UCLA Anderson, the school increased its admissions by more than 60%, increased placements by more than 20%, and revised its curriculum. Ainslie was also an assistant and then associate professor of marketing at UCLA Anderson, as well an assistant professor of marketing at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Before beginning his academic career, he had a 10-year career in business, including as an electrical engineer for AECI (South Africa), sales and marketing for Hewlett Packard (South Africa), corporate finance with Standard Merchant Bank, and marketing and development for Compustat.
Ainslie’s home country was Zimbabwe, having earned both his undergraduate degree and MBA in South Africa. He also worked in the UK and Brazil before deciding to enter the Ph.D. program in marketing and statistics at the University of Chicago when he was 32 years old. “It was the adventure of a lifetime,” he told a reporter.
Ainslie became the seventh dean of the Simon Business School in May of 2014 and had been reappointed to a second five-year term that began in early July of 2019, a mere month before he announced his decision to leave the deanship. During his time at Simon, Ainslie led strategic curriculum and recruitment changes, including reducing the program offerings to sharpen the focus of the admissions, faculty, career placement, and administrative staff. He has also concentrated on the expansion of the undergraduate business program and had worked with faculty to move the Simon School from quarters to semesters to better meet student needs.
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