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Interim-President Paul Danos

Paul Danos.jpgWhat are we looking for in an interim-President? We need someone who can manage Dartmouth’s current crises and give people the sense that there is a leader in Hanover. We want a person who knows the community and who can call on old colleagues to bring stability to an administration that might well be gutted by sudden departures. As we have discussed, Steven Kadish and his wife Linda Snider could soon return to their home in Boston, and if Carol Folt is passed over again, she might finally get the message and decamp for another school in need of her services. Enforcer-in-Chief David Spalding has no role in a kick-the-rascals-out administration, so a new leader will have to replace him, too.

Who can do this work? Only someone already in Hanover who has successfully held an executive position with a full range of responsibilities. In scanning the possible candidates, as we did on Monday, there really is not much choice among people with the requisite experience. Only Tuck Dean Paul Danos has the full set of skills and the necessary background.

Let’s look at the tangibles first. Danos has attracted strong faculty members to the school and his deans have the highest scholarly credentials. Building projects over his 17-year tenure — including significant renovations of the existing Tuck facility (not an easy task, right?) — have gone well. He has done a tremendous job fundraising: big gifts have come in steadily, and overall giving by Tuck alumni hit 70.5% this past year, in contrast to a 20% rate at other major MBA programs. And finally, the Tuck curriculum has been revised in fundamental ways. These changes have led to an improvement in Tuck’s national and international profile.

Thumbnail image for paul danos1.jpgOf course, not all of these things have been solely Danos’ doing, but once again, in looking at Dartmouth, one can see the potential for a leader to stifle innovation on many fronts. Danos seems to have the opposite effect. And most extraordinarily, he has achieved these changes while keeping harmony at the end of Tuck Mall, and even being liked in the process! He has a reputation for integrity, a characteristic that would be a refreshing development in Parkhurst Hall.

Some students have been concerned by his aloofness from their day-to-day lives, and other people have commented on a seeming lack of intellectual breadth, but I’ll let the man’s track record speak for itself.

Given his long and happy tenure at Tuck, it is unclear whether Dean Danos is gunning for a higher position. Perhaps he is content to keep working on making Tuck a great school, though maybe a break for a year to run the College would be an interesting challenge for him. If he announced early on that he is not in the running for the Dartmouth Presidency, his presence as an interim leader would not deter the highest quality candidates from applying for the job.

Let me conclude by saying that it would be wonderful to have a President who has actual experience in running an institution of higher learning. The Trustees took a risk in hiring Jim Kim; that experiment was a failure for which we have little to show. This time around, the Trustees should choose an accomplished and competent leader who they know is capable of improving the College.

Addendum: In the below interview, Dean Danos talks with Bloomberg News about his appointment for a fifth term as Dean of Tuck. Among other observations, he noted that the average tenure for a B-School dean is three and a half years.


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