January 8, 2010

After 10 years, Booth School dean to step down in June

Booth School of Business Dean Edward A. Snyder (A.M. ’78, Ph.D. ’84) announced last month that he will be stepping down in June after heading the business school for nine years.

Snyder oversaw a faculty expansion, the construction of the Charles M. Harper Center, and the school’s renaming. He has lately criticized the practice of treating business school students as customers.

In a December 10 letter to the Booth School community, President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum announced that a search committee for the next dean would begin in a few weeks. “We want to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to Ted for his dedication and achievements over nine years of outstanding service,” they wrote.

The letter said Snyder’s tenure saw the Booth School retain more senior faculty than under any other dean in the past 50 years.

“Ted has helped make a Chicago education accessible to more of the most qualified students,” they said, before adding that Snyder increased scholarships threefold during his tenure.

No U of C business school dean has served for more than two five-year terms since World War II, according to a letter Snyder sent to the Booth School community on December 10.

In the letter, Snyder said the school was well–positioned for a new appointment. “Given the strong state of our school and what we have accomplished, I believe now is the right time for the school to search for its next dean.” Snyder declined to comment.

Snyder was appointed dean in 2001 after serving as dean of Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. He received a master’s in public policy from the U of C in 1978 and a Ph.D. in economics in 1984. He went on to work for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice and returned to the University for two years as a professor of economics and politics. He was a dean at the University of Michigan’s business school before moving to Darden.

The Booth School expanded significantly during Snyder’s time in office, doubling its endowed faculty chairs and accepting a $300 million gift by David Booth (MBA ’71), for whom the school is now named.

Snyder focused on expanding Booth’s campuses across the world. After construction of the Harper Center in 2004, Snyder moved its European campus to London from Barcelona because “students wanted more interaction with alumni, more interaction with the business community,” according to professor Stacey Kole, deputy dean for the full-time MBA program.

“He’s been very effective in galvanizing students, alumni, and our corporate partners in making Chicago Booth the best business school in the world,” Kole said, adding that he “understands the critical role that the faculty play in the success of the institution.”

Kole, who Snyder recruited to the school in 2004, credited much of the senior staff’s strength to Snyder.

“There are many people on our senior staff who have only ever worked for Ted. Eight years, nine years, that’s a long time in this business,” Kole said. “He’s built a very strong team, a team of very loyal staff that have made the school strong and supported our students to have a rewarding experience here.”

Snyder has been quoted in recent weeks for condemning a recent trend among business school faculties that treat their students as customers with the mantra: “Customers are always right.” In 2007, he wrote a combative piece for an education trade paper arguing that the practice “is corrupt and corrupting.”

After rehashing that argument for a Chicago Tribune blog last month, Snyder appeared in an online forum at The New York Times Sunday to argue his position.

“Deep professional development comes from setting high expectations, from challenging students, and from supporting them,” he said in the Times.

“At a time when other business schools were backing away from rigorous analysis and were treating students as customers, Ted stepped forward and said, ‘That’s how you train great business leaders,’ and that’s been a very effective strategy for us,” Kole said.

In his letter to the community, Snyder reflected on the progress the school has made and thanked a number of people for the help they’d been to him and the school, including Kole, Booth, Zimmer, and Rosenbaum.

“It is simply terrific to be around our great faculty, our students, and alumni, whose energy and aspirations keep me feeling positive about our school and the world,” he added.