Darden School Dean Robert Bruner to rejoin faculty

Bruner stepping down after two terms as dean of Darden School

Dean Robert Bruner of the Darden School will join Architecture Dean Kim Tanzer, College Dean Meredith Woo and Batten School Dean Harry Harding as deans who are stepping down when their contracts expire. On Monday, University President Teresa Sullivan announced Bruner’s decision to step down as dean July 31, 2015 and return to his former faculty position after a year-long sabbatical.

This semester marks the end of Bruner’s second term and concludes his 10-year deanship at the Darden School.

“A host of metrics say that this is the right time to hand over the baton of leadership,” Bruner said. “I love to teach and write, quite honestly, it’s why I got into this career. … I’m looking forward to returning to the classroom.”

During his deanship, Bruner and his team raised $150 million for the Darden School through the Capital Campaign. His encouragement led to the sweeping introduction of massive open online courses in 2013 and the school’s collaboration with Amazon to model e-readers in 2009. The MBA for Executives and the Global MBA for Executives — which allow executives to pursue a degree in segments while sustaining full time positions — was also launched during Bruner’s term as dean.

“Bob Bruner’s impact on Darden has been transformational and will carry the school forward,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Darden is recognized worldwide for student satisfaction and for delivering the best graduate business education experience. Bob and his team have achieved this reputation through curricular innovations, the launch of two new formats of the Darden MBA, an unrelenting search for top faculty and student talent, and attention to every detail of the academic experience.”

Bruner cited the completion of the Capital Campaign, the number and quality of full-time faculty recruited in his term, and the “very, very strong caliber” of Darden students as the greatest successes of his tenure.

“The first priority has been attracting excellent students,” Bruner said. “The average GMAT score for the class that entered in August was 706 on a scale from 0-800. There are maybe only 15 schools in the world that offer a class with such strong academic potential.”

Poets & Quants and CNNMoney/Fortune named Bruner “Dean of the Year” in 2012.

Before becoming the eighth dean of Darden, Bruner served as the Charles C. Abbott Professor of Business Administration for 23 years, teaching and conducting research predominantly in the fields of business history, leadership and finance. He intends to resume teaching regular classes in these focuses in fall 2015, following a customary one-year sabbatical.

Bruner is well-known among students for his social media presence and accessibility as a business school dean. He boasts an active “Dean’s Blog” and Twitter account, which students use regularly to contact him. The tweets range from inspirational quotes and advice to provocative reads and interviews that pertain to Darden students. On Tuesday, his Twitter account quoted Galileo: “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.”

“It’s stimulating,” Bruner said. “It’s like having any debate in a research seminar or in a classroom, although this time it’s through the computer screen… [Maintaining a social media presence] is part of my personal mission as an educator; I intend to keep it up.”

A series of strategic meetings regarding the future of the Darden School will be held throughout April and May.

“These discussions will dovetail with the launch of the search committee,” Bruner said. “I hope the successor will stay on at least as long as I have, because it’s with a 10-year pull that you have the opportunity to have real strategic impact.”

Business Administration Prof. Kenneth Eades will chair a committee conducting a global search for Bruner’s replacement.

Correction: an earlier version of this article indicated Bruner would retire July 31 of this year. He will not be stepping down until his contract expires July 31, 2015.

Published April 15, 2014 in FP test, News

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