Robert Edmister, taking over at BGSU, is new to the leadership of an academic department.
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Two boys born on Oct. 31, 1942 - one in Columbus, the other in Flint, Mich. - grew up to be business professors. Their paths have crossed a number of times in their long teaching careers: Both were at Purdue University in 1970, for example.
And now, at the age of 60, they are college deans 20 miles apart. Thomas Gutteridge is dean of the college of business administration at the University of Toledo, and Robert Edmister has the same job at Bowling Green State University. Each started July 1.
Each faces big challenges, with tighter government budgets and rising college costs. Each will be focused in part on raising money from businesses and alumni for scholarships, endowments for professorial chairs, and innovative programs.
Bowling Green hired Dr. Edmister, at $175,000 a year, to replace James Sullivan, dean since 1996, who returned to teaching. The new dean heads a school with 2,700 students, 88 full-time and 16 part-time faculty, staff of 31, and annual budget of $8.2 million.
“I have been preparing myself for a dean's job [for years],” he said, adding that he learned much from a former dean at Ole Miss.
UT, without a permanent business dean for more than three years, hired Dr. Gutteridge at a salary of $200,000. He replaced Sonny Ariss, interim dean since 2000. The new dean heads a school with 3,200 students, 77 faculty members, staff of about 50, and an annual budget of $9.5 million.
A supporter of Dr. Ariss for the dean's job, James Findlay, said he would support the appointee because his experience and background can help bring the faculty together.
“There's too much division there,” said Mr. Findlay, founder of Impact Products LLC. “I believe he will continue to reach out to the community, which is important, and we need to bring more of the business community into the college and send more of the faculty out into the business [world].”
The two deans have a lot of similar ideas: Both talk of “building bridges” from faculty and students to the business community and alumni and of raising the level of scholarships. They say they want to encourage more students to become entrepreneurs.
But that's where the similarities end.
Dr. Gutteridge, in his third time as a dean, comes from a background of engineering, industrial production, and human resources. Dr. Edmister, a first-time dean, comes from banking, banking regulation, and finance. BGSU has had three business deans in 21 years, but UT has had 11 since 1980.
“I came from a blue-collar family,” said Dr. Gutteridge. His father was a roofer in Flint and later a shop worker for the Buick division of General Motors Corp. “I was the first member of the family to go to college. There was no money. I ended up paying 100 percent of my college expenses.”
Except for a twist of fate, he probably would have become a high school teacher and football coach. But GM gave him the chance to get his bachelor's degree through a work-study program at what is now Kettering University in Flint.
UT's Thomas Gutteridge, is in his third job as a dean.
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He struggled with engineering drawings and needed a lot of perseverance to get through, he said, but the degree led to several engineering, production, and human-relations jobs with GM. He earned a master's degree and a doctorate in industrial administration from Purdue.
He taught for 13 years at State University of New York at Buffalo and was business dean for nine years at Southern Illinois University and 10 years at the University of Connecticut. He was a member of Connecticut's state board of labor relations and is a federal labor arbitrator.
Dr. Edmister grew up in Bexley, an upscale Columbus suburb, in a family of business owners. But he, too, worked while in college. He obtained a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a master of business administration from the University of Michigan, and a PhD from Ohio State University. He taught 15 years at the University of Maryland, four years at Purdue, and the last 14 years at the University of Mississippi.
He was a commercial lender for National Bank of Detroit for two years and was a faculty bank-supervision fellow in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp for a year and later a visiting scholar at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. At Ole Miss he was chairman of the banking department and headed a state banking association and a regional finance organization.
He believes one of the strengths he offers BGSU is his background in alumni relationship building.
In Mississippi, he put together a 15-member active advisory board of business executives, backed by a 40-member council of business leaders. “One of the things I am going to be active in is networking between students and alumni,” he said. “That's important so students can get good jobs when they graduate.”
Other priorities are more endowed chairs to attract teacher-scholars and an emphasis on values. “We want our students to understand the values they need to be successful,” he said.
Ashel Bryan, longtime head of Mid Am Inc., a banking company now known as Sky Financial Group, said a dean with a banking background is great. “In banking you get involved in so many businesses and get practical experience in many businesses, and that is a value in teaching business,” he said.
At UT, Dr. Gutteridge styles himself as a “pracademician,” or a practicing academician. One of his goals is to attract better students and give them a better education, he said.
The university's strength, he said, lies in the faculty. “It's a real senior faculty, excellent in the classroom.” A few majors could go out of existence and others may be added or fine-tuned, he said.
Some of the school's offerings, such as its 11-year-old Center for Family Business, will get updated strategic plans, he promised. “The center itself is a microcosm of running a business,” he added.
UT has good ties to the business community, better than he has seen at other universities, but its direction should be more focused, he said.
Dr. Gutteridge and his wife, Judy, a former registered nurse, are in the process of moving into a home in Stone Oak west of Toledo.
Dr. Edmister has moved to Bowling Green. His wife, Julie, who has a doctorate in educational leadership, will join him this year, and she starts as a BGSU professor in January.