Jeffrey E. Garten is no tweedy academic. As Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade in the Clinton Administration, he was a point man in fractious auto trade talks with the Japanese. He also provoked outrage among American trading partners by aggressively helping U.S. companies gain big contracts overseas. Now, he's quitting his government job to take over as dean of Yale University's School of Management. When he reports for work on Nov. 1, the 48-year-old former investment banker will probably need every wily diplomatic skill at his command.
Yale's B-School is still trying to live down the controversial legacy of airline exec Michael E. Levine, who as dean from 1989 to 1991 managed to anger students and alumni by gutting the organizational-behavior and operations-research faculty. The school traditionally has trained leaders for government and nonprofit organizations, as well as corporations; alumni charged that Levine wanted to narrow its mission and turn it into an MBA factory.
Things got pretty hairy during the Levine years. Students showed up at graduation wearing black armbands, and alumni rented flyover planes that unfurled anti-Levine banners. Alumni support waned, and applications fell. To help polish its external image, Yale even hired the public-relations manager who helped Union Carbide Corp. through its Bhopal disaster. "It was a period when many of us had a hard time either contributing to the school or recommending it to others," says Michela English, a 1979 alumna who is now a senior vice-president of the National Geographic Society Inc.
Though he is not a Yalie, Garten has devoted himself to a career that has mixed both public and private service. Throughout his 15 years as an investment banker, he has made numerous detours, serving in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Clinton Administrations.
His international experience is vast, too. After earning a master's degree in international affairs from Johns Hopkins in 1972, he got a job in Henry Kissinger's State Dept. In 1978, he joined Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb, where he specialized in restructuring Latin American debt. As a managing director of Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc. from 1984 to 1987, he opened and built up the firm's Tokyo office.
A CHARMER. Garten's two-year stint as a Commerce Under Secretary saw him emerge as the architect of a strategy to expand U.S. exports into key emerging markets such as China and India. He also won plaudits for creating an "economic war room" where execs and government officials could plot strategy to win billion-dollar deals overseas.
That brought him to the attention of Yale University President Richard C. Levin, who began wooing Garten in early June. Garten says he accepted the job partly because being in Washington had forced him to spend too much time apart from his wife, Ina, who owns a gourmet food store in East Hampton, N.Y. Married for 26 years, they met when he was a freshman at Dartmouth and she, then 16, was visiting her brother there.
In Washington, Garten is known as a charmer, an adept public speaker, and a bit of a publicity hound. All are qualities that may serve him well in continuing the Yale management school's turnaround. Applications hit 1,427 this year, up from 1,107 in 1991, and the average Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score was a record 664 for the newest enrolled class, up 22 points in two years. "We are no longer perceived as an embarrassment to the university," says Professor Stanley J. Garstka, who served as acting dean.
Garten's mission now: to keep the improvements coming while loudly trumpeting the school's increased performance. "I want to give it the same luster in the field of management that Yale has in law," he says. Garten doesn't yet have specific plans for doing that. But once he gets going, Garten has a shot at making a deep imprint on a long-troubled institution.
JEFFREY E. GARTEN
BORN Oct. 29, 1946, in New York City
EDUCATION BA (1968) from Dartmouth College, MA (1972) and PhD (1980) from Johns Hopkins
CAREER As a Commerce Under Secretary, this former investment banker focused on export growth in emerging markets
FAMILY Married for 26 years to Ina, who runs Barefoot Contessa, a gourmet food shop in East Hampton, N.Y.; no children