Thomas Robertson will lead the Wharton School as its new dean, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ron Daniels announced last week. As Wharton's 13th dean, Robertson will be responsible for increasing the school's global presence, diversity and interdisciplinary efforts.
Robertson comes to Penn from Emory University, where he currently is the executive faculty director of the Institute for Developing Nations, and has previously served as dean of the Goizueta Business School.
The announcement of Robertson's appointment, which is effective Aug. 1, caps off a large-scale six-month search for a replacement to outgoing Dean Patrick Harker, who is leaving to assume the presidency of the University of Delaware.
"He has everything we've been looking for," Gutmann said of Robertson. "I give great credit to the search committee. They moved quickly and that enabled the provost and me to move quickly."
Gutmann said that Robertson's achievements in increasing the faculty and upping the endowment at Emory by a significant percentage were particularly impressive to the search committee, which was chaired by Eduardo Glandt, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Though Robertson, 64, has spent the last decade in faculty and administrative positions at Emory and the London Business School, his new position will represent a homecoming of sorts. At Penn, he previously served as a Marketing professor from 1971 to 1994.
"Having knowledge of Wharton is a big plus," Gutmann said of Robertson's background.
Outlining his goals for his position, Robertson said that maintaining and improving the quality of Wharton's faculty, students and staff was his first priority.
Next on his list is increasing Wharton's international presence.
"You don't just compete with American business schools anymore," he said, adding that Wharton may look into building campuses in other countries, as business schools at Columbia University and the University of Chicago have done.
He added that Wharton should "think beyond developed countries."
Within Wharton, Robertson said he would like to increase diversity, starting by getting more women enrolled in its M.B.A. program. He said he also hopes to strengthen Wharton's interdisciplinary ties to other schools at Penn.
As dean, much of Robertson's time will be spent fund raising, and he said he hopes to provide donors with "visionary opportunities" to sponsor students, faculty and programs.
Though Gutmann and Daniels make the final selection for top administrative posts, they based their selection on a short list compiled by a search committee. Glandt, who chaired the committee, said the selection often lies not in the candidate's resume but "in the intangibles and the nuances of how this person relates."
Glandt said the committee took input from both faculty and students into consideration in making its decision. While many faculty members suggested specific names, students were more likely to request specific qualities they wanted a dean to possess, like a commitment to globalization.
Glandt added that he was impressed by how thorough Gutmann and Daniels were in vetting candidates, describing Gutmann as having been "calling everybody in the country and his brother and his sister" for references.
"It's the people who work alongside the individual who know the individual best," he said.
Of Robertson as the final selection, Glandt said, "I personally was impressed by his gravitas."
"For every question that came up . he didn't have a canned answer," Glandt said, describing Robertson as "thoughtful and solid."
Robertson said that he is thrilled to be returning to Penn after more than a decade away - although he says that the Penn he knew is very different from the Penn which exists today.
"Penn is a lot better, and Wharton is a lot better," he explained, praising the tenure of Gutmann and that of her predecessor, Judith Rodin. "The University is more international than it was . it feels more diverse than it used to."
Robertson earned his bachelor's of arts at Wayne State University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He has also taught at the Harvard Business School and the University of California, Los Angeles.