January 26, 2012

Dean Leaves Johnson School Legacy

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As the five-year tenure of Joseph Thomas, the Samuel Curtis Johnson School of Management’s 10th dean, comes to an end, Johnson faculty praised the outgoing dean for advancing the school’s reputation to a national level.

Among his many accomplishments, Thomas created the Emerging Markets Institute and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute — two programs colleagues say have moved the Johnson School to the forefront of business education.

Thomas’ role in creating these two programs helped the Johnson School form a unique curriculum, according to EII Executive Director Rhett Weiss.

“The creation of the institutes helped to piece together a curriculum that was already in existence at the Johnson School, but not necessarily glued together,” Weiss said. “It is clear that the School is headed in a direction that is multifaceted, balancing academic learning with experiential learning.”

EMI co-Director Prof. Andrew Karolyi, finance, said Thomas’ personality made him to serve as an effective leader for the Johnson School.

“He has a quality about him that distinguishes him,” Karolyi said. “He is an active listener. In a position of leadership, and as a representative to the outside world, there is nothing more important than being an active listener.”

Thomas attributed his success in part to his focus on hiring talented faculty members.

“We have hired many new outstanding faculty and staff, some in support of EMI and EII, but also in all of our areas,” he said in an email. “Strengthening the faculty is an ongoing priority for Johnson and many other parts of Cornell.”

Karolyi said that Thomas’ ability to value his colleagues also proved essential to his success as dean.

“Everyone has something different to contribute and he sees that,” Karolyi said. “It shows great respect to the person with whom he is engaging.”

Weiss added that Thomas understands “the trivial, versus the important,” parts of his position.

“He understands the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation and their role in our economy,” he said. “This is somewhat rare among career academics; he has a very good business mind.”

Thomas said his favorite part of his job is his daily communication with students and faculty.

“I have especially enjoyed being the face of Johnson with thousands of alumni around the world,” he said. “I will miss those interactions, and I hope still to attend some alumni functions.”

Thomas expressed faith in the abilities of his successor, Soumitra Dutta, an expert in international business and computer science, who will bcome the Johnson School’s 11th dean. Dutta’s term will begin on July 1.

“[Dutta] brings experience in many parts of the world, and his leadership will help us to continue to globalize,” Thomas said. “He also has a tech background and he is the right person to lead our contribution to [Cornell’a new tech campus in New York City], which is a great opportunity for Cornell and Johnson.”

Thomas said he plans to take a sabbatical leave and then return to teaching part-time. He said he wants to pursue a number of ventures, including working “with businesses as an advisor and some volunteer opportunities.”

Karolyi said that Thomas left a legacy of stressing the importance of interdisciplinary initiatives at the Johnson School.

“Executive education has been very successful under Joe’s watch,” Karolyi said. “We were very lucky to have him.”

Thomas, however, credited much of his success to his colleagues at the Johnson School.

“Johnson has come a long way, and I am proud of several accomplishments,” he said. “Of course, many people made this happen, not just me.”

Original Author: Erika Hooker