Who's Next for Wharton?

The search begins to find a replacement for a dean who pushed global expansion and was a skillful fund-raiser

The search committee looking for a dean to replace Patrick Harker at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School when he steps down in June will have some big shoes to fill. Harker, who is leaving to become president of the University of Delaware, has earned high marks during his seven years as dean for his ambitious global expansion and facility in raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the school. And Wharton has remained in the topmost ranks of the world's business schools.

But that doesn't mean that Harker's replacement can relax. For one, the Wharton brand, while undeniably strong in the U.S., still doesn't have the same worldwide reputation as Harvard the school it's most compared to.

And the number of global competitors, especially in fast-growing east and south Asia, ;grows more numerous each year. Balancing global expansion with available resources—even for a well-endowed school such as Wharton—will be a challenge.

Wharton's search for a new dean has just begun, though it was known for some time before Delaware's Dec. 1 announcement that Harker was on the university's short list. Penn President Amy Gutmann is in the process of appointing a search committee of faculty members, students, and alumni advisers.

Global Profile

Outside observers say it's not unlikely that Wharton will end up going in-house for a new dean, and Penn's student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, reported that some faculty members are pointing to deputy dean David Schmittlein as Harker's possible successor. (Schmittlein was unavailable for comment.)

Harker was a popular figure at Wharton. Earlier this year he was appointed for a second term as dean that would have run through June, 2012.

Many of Harker's major achievements as dean fall in the area of global brand-building. He created Wharton West, the school's San Francisco campus for Executive MBAs, and led the alliance between Wharton and INSEAD, with its campuses in France and Singapore.

Harker, who got good marks from the school's alumni, was also a prodigious fundraiser, raising $450 million in the largest capital campaign in the school's history. Much of that money will go to continue what Harker named as both his top priority and most significant accomplishment as dean—attracting and retaining top faculty in an ever-competitive market.

"Keeping all those folks here," he says, will be the next dean's challenge. (For an interview with Harker, see BusinessWeek.com, 12/11/06, "Leaving a 'Global Mindset'")

Staying on Track

"He is the man who took Wharton out of Philadelphia and into the world," says former INSEAD Dean Gabriel Hawawani, who is currently at Wharton as a visiting professor working on a book about the future of management education.

"Dean Harker understood how globalization and the new economic environment are pushing business schools to adapt and change to better serve our students and corporate partners. He put Wharton on the right path. His successor will have to make sure the school continues to move in the right direction."

In a letter to the Penn community, Gutmann and provost Ron Daniels praised Harker as an "outstanding leader" with "extraordinary energy and creativity." Adds vice-dean Anjani Jain, director of the Wharton Graduate Division: "Dean Harker has forged a path for the institution that's likely to have a lasting legacy…I think we are in a very good position."

Sticking Close to Its Roots

Determining how to expand the school's global reach, while at the same time bringing in enough funding to support such an expansion, might well be the biggest challenge for Harker's successor. "All major business schools will have to continue to enlarge their global footprint," Jain says, "but what exactly that means is the million-dollar question."

John Fernandes, president of accrediting board AACSB International, says if a school isn't happy with its recent performance, search committees tend to look for an outside candidate to work as a change agent. If a school has done well, it's much more likely to go with an insider. At Wharton, Fernandes says, "I'd be very surprised if they go very far from the tree."

Indeed, when it comes to deanships at top universities, it's not uncommon for the search to end in a school's own backyard. Harker himself was deputy dean before being appointed to Wharton's top post (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/8/00, "Wharton Picks One of Its Own as New Dean"), and outgoing MIT-Sloan dean Richard Schmalensee previously served in that position at MIT. The current deans at Kellogg, Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and Darden were also culled from the ranks of the faculty or administration at their respective schools.

In any case, experts agree that Wharton will have no trouble attracting talented candidates for the job. "Wharton is such a strong school that I think they'll view this as an opportunity," says Ted Snyder, dean of Chicago Graduate School of Business. "It's a great job, and they won't have any trouble finding someone to fill it."