Former Shell Oil executive is finalist for business school deanship

Media Credit: Photo courtesy of the University of Delaware.

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Company, speaks at the University of Delaware.

A former oil executive and the dean of a rising New York business school are two of the five finalists the lead the GW School of Business deanship.

John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil Company, and Donald Sieger, dean of the School of Business at the University of Albany-SUNY, both met with faculty, administrators and students in the past week as the final step in their bids to become dean of GW’s business school.

Three more candidates – another business school dean and two vice deans – will come to campus over the next week before the committee narrows it down to three candidates. University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman will likely choose from those finalists next month.

Hofmeister, who declined an interview but confirmed his dean candidacy, would be the school’s first dean with no professional experience in academia, a possible point of contention with a faculty that clashed with former dean Doug Guthrie’s CEO-like leadership style.

But Hofmeister would also bring a network of connections and a focus on sustainability to the school, even as a self-described “energy insider.”

Since retiring as the president of Shell in 2008, Hofmeister founded Citizens for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit organization focused on inexpensive but green approaches to finding energy. He is also a fellow at the Global Institute of Sustainability at the Arizona State University.

Hofmeister, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State University, has a resume marked with executive posts but no MBA degree. He would bring three years of experience leading a public, Fortune 100 company, and over 30 years working in marketing and human resources roles at companies like General Electric.

His experience managing a company’s finances would contrast with Guthrie, who had no prior dean experience and was fired in August after overspending the school’s budget by $13 million. In the job description sent out to potential applicants, the committee noted budgeting experience was a qualification.

Other business schools have looked outside academia for their deans in recent years. Pace, Northwestern and Boston universities all hired former CEOs as their deans in 2010.

A professor with knowledge of the committee’s discussions said although faculty could have concerns about Hofmeister’s lack of experience in academia, he had the connections to bring in a naming donation, which has been one of the school’s main goals for several years.

“We’d like to find somebody to get the money to name the school, as well as people to donate money for scholarships,” the professor said.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Murat Tarimcilar, former vice dean of programs and education for the the School of Business, leads the dean search committee.

GW is likely seeking at least $50 million to name the business school, according to documents from early in Guthrie’s term that were obtained by The Hatchet.

Each of GW’s 10 deans are charged with fundraising at least 40 percent of their time.

The School of Media and Public Affairs and Graduate School of Political Management have each brought in leaders from outside academia since 2009. Frank Sesno was the Washington Bureau Chief at CNN for 21 years, while Mark Kennedy was a Republican congressman from Minnesota before he was chosen to lead the political management school in 2012.

Patricia Reiter, the director of the Arizona-based Global Institute on Sustainability, praised Hofmeister’s passion, which she said showed in his students’ stellar course reviews. She said GW students would “absolutely love him.”

She said the research center, which also grants bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in sustainability, has also grown internationally with the help of Hofmeister, who has connected his colleagues to his contacts around the world.

The school’s search committee, led by Murat Tarimcilar, a professor of decision sciences, will select three names to pass onto President Knapp and Provost Lerman to make the final decision next month.

Tarimcilar declined to comment on specific candidates until all had come for their visits.

Donald Siegel, who visited campus Tuesday, has overseen the University of Albany – SUNY’s business school since 2008. This year, the school ranked No. 87 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, breaking into the top 100 for the first time, largely due to its high scores for graduates’ job placements.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Doug Guthrie, the former business school dean, was fired last August.

Siegel, who declined an interview with The Hatchet but confirmed he is a finalist, is also a professor in the school’s management department. Since becoming dean, he has continued to teach and research, a GW professor who met him said.

Deirdre Sweeney, assistant director of employer relations at Albany’s business school, said Siegel has helped improve the school’s visibility. He helped launch an entrepreneurship concentration and has connected with other schools in the college.

Though he is more hands-off than some of the school’s former deans, faculty have relied on him as a resource for their own projects, she said, adding that he has made strong connections with some of the school’s most influential alumni.

“That doesn’t always happen. There are a lot of personalities with higher level executives, and sometimes they like the dean and sometimes they don’t,” she said.

Siegel also oversaw fundraising for a new building as he came into the job, said Richard Johnson, chair of the school’s management department. And during his first year as dean, he steered the school’s accreditation by the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business.

As dean, Siegel has allowed faculty to drive decisions, Johnson said.

“Instead of using autocratic approach, he allows healthy competition, it kind of raises the bar for everybody,” he said.

– Brianna Gurciullo contributed reporting.

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