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A Star Shines Brighter

Rick Mills2.jpgThe D ran a piece today headlined New structure brings Wagner into CFO role, but that’s not the real story here. Wagner is a solid and dutiful worker, and he has labored under a string of Presidents, fitting in as needed. However, with this promotion, he is not so much rising up to new responsibilities as freeing EVP Rick Mills (photo right) to play a greater role in the management of the College.

We pointed out last week that Mills is beginning a series of lectures on the high cost of the College’s benefits policies. This kind of education has long been needed at Dartmouth. When he was hired, we also observed that Mills had a background that was not what one would expect from a senior financial leader in higher education. Let’s hope that he is showing that originality now.

In fact, we were lucky to lure Mills away from Harvard Medical School, where he had risen quickly in the hierarchy. The candidates reviewed by Dartmouth’s search committee fell into two groups: plain vanilla bureaucrats who had uneventfully spent their professional lives in higher education, and business executives of the type that have historically proven to be a poor fit when transferring to college administration. Mills stood out from the crowd as having both private sector rigor and the diplomatic savvy to succeed in a political environment. When Mills was hired last summer, we wrote:

Phil’s first big decision will tell us something about him. A year from now, the word will be out on Rick Mills. We’ll know if he is the EVP/CFO that the College needs, or not. And we’ll know if Phil Hanlon has a nose for talent, and if his instincts for departing from the beaten path are any good, or not.

Fingers crossed.

Phil passes this test with flying colors. Mills has earned nothing by praise around campus for directness, honesty, intelligence and imagination. With any luck, another year from now, he’ll have set Dartmouth on the road to fiscal and academic health by reducing the rampant waste that still characterizes so much of the bureaucracy. Once again, fingers crossed, but what a pleasure it is to feel hopeful about the direction of one area of the College.

Addendum: If Mike Wagner (below left) does not find the CFO position to his liking, I see a future for him as a stand-in for English actor Rowan Atkinson:

Wagner Atkinson Comp.jpg


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