Cash May Be Next Business School Dean

How ironic it would be if the next dean of the Harvard Business School were named Cash.

Ironic perhaps, but quite possible. The 6' 9" technology expert and former basketball star has numerous skills which make him a frontrunner in the race to be the next Business School chief, professors have said in interviews.

But despite rumors which peg Robison Professor of Business Administration James I. Cash, Jr. as a leading contender for the job, Cash himself won't comment on his potential candidacy.

"I have total confidence that the president will as always do his homework and will make a decision based on the insights he develops," Cash said.

Others whom faculty members have listed as potential contenders for the Business School deanship include:

Professor of Business Administration Leonard Schlesinger.

Figgie Professor of Business Administration Kim B. Clark '74.

Class of 1955 Professor of Business Administration William A. Sahlman.

"The next dean's going to really have to build the faculty with more teamwork orientation, and I think [Cash] can do that," said McLean Professor of Business Administration James L. McKenney, who helped recruit Cash to teach at the Business School in 1976.

Faculty members praise Cash as an exceptionally skilled administrator.

According to professors, ever since Cash arrived, he has assumed and performed well in leadership roles.

"[Cash has] been involved in leadership activities for an extremely long time. He's had a series of increasing responsibilities," said Walker Professor of Business Administration H. Warren McFarlan, who also participated in recruiting Cash.

In the past, Cash served as faculty chair in several of the school's executive education programs, including "Managing the Information Services Resource" and "Managing Business Transformation."

As chair of the MBA program since 1992, Cash was also instrumental in initiating and directing Leadership and Learning, a comprehensive restructuring of the MBA program which began in 1992 and ended this past February.

In interviews with The Crimson last week, Business School professors saidCash's enthusiasm encouraged others to support andjoin in his efforts.

Cash was successful in "getting everybody'sthumbprint on what [the school was] trying to do,"McKenney said.

"After [Cash] sort of got the [Leadership andLearning] ball rolling, a lot of people gotinvolved," said Caldwell Professor of BusinessAdministration Robert H. Hayes.

McKenney said the personal considerations Cashextends to others make him a caring administratorfor whom others are willing to work.

"He listens very well. He's good at probing howstrongly you feel, as well as how well you'vethought about the issues," McKenney said.

Cash is also a good leader because he is nottoo set in his ways, according to McKenney.

McKenney said Cash's leadership style issimilar to the current dean's, who "didn't have astrong agenda [and] just had a purpose."

"[Cash] makes his mind up but continues tolisten and shape [his opinion]," McKenney said.

But one professor who spoke on condition ofanonymity said Cash is not the most popular leaderin the faculty.

Cash may have "alienated a lot of people" asdirector of Leadership and Learning, the professorsaid.

"Jim took a lot of the heat for [Leadership andLearning's unpopular changes], which makes hiscandidacy a little more difficult," the sourcesaid.

But another professor who asked to remainunnamed said that for most leaders, "offend[ing]people...come[s] with the turf."

"Those things should be thought about, but it'simperative to understand the nature ofleadership," the professor said. "Some negativefallout and criticism is endemic to being a leaderand taking initiative."

"The question is not whether any leader isgoing to offend people but the quantum of offense.I don't think with [Cash] it's any greater thanthe norm," the professor added.


Cash's consideration of others would probablymake him a good fundraiser, said a faculty memberwho spoke on condition of anonymity.

"[Cash] has an honest belief in the mission ofthe place, and an ability to communicate whatcould be accomplished if someone comes on board,"the professor said.

"People are going to warm to [Cash] and bewilling to join with him," the professor added,citing Cash's custom of "thanking people" and"sharing limelight."

Fundraising is an activity which many facultymembers listed as one of Dean of the BusinessSchool John H. McArthur's greatest strengths.

"[McArthur has] certainly increas[ed] thefinancial strength of the school," said LittleProfessor of Business Administration Charles J.Christenson.

Since McArthur became dean in 1980, annualgifts to the Business School have gone up from $8million to $30 million, and the market value ofinvestments has skyrocketed from $106 million to$600 million, according to a Business School factsheet.

The next dean will also have the responsibilityof managing the Business School's budget.

"[There are] huge investments to be made overthe next decade, and it's easy to not spend moneywisely," said Dickinson Professor of AccountingRobert S. Kaplan.

Excellence in Teaching

Like his administrative career, Cash's teachingcareer started with a bang and kept on going.

When Cash first came to teach at the BusinessSchool in 1976, he had never taught a course usingthe case method, McKenney said.

And since most Business School courses use casestudies, Cash was somewhat worried on his firstday of teaching, McKenney said.

"McFarlan and I took him into the classroom,and in the beginning he was a little nervous,"McKenney said.

But a few minutes into the class, Cash wasfine.

"He really got into it and came alive,"McKenney said.

Cash's ability to adapt to a new teaching stylewas "amazing," McKenney said.

"He probably got up to [the case method] asfast as anyone I've ever seen, and I've been herea long time," McKenney said. "In his second year,he was emerging as what was going to be a futuregreat teacher."

'You Can't Not Like The Guy'

Cash's teaching excellence stems in part fromhis friendly ease with students, colleagues said.

"[Cash] is very effective in helping to workthings out with people who have had problems withprofessors," McFarlan said, citing Cash's"sensitivity" in handling "difficult incidents."

"He has a very good understanding of the schooland [of] people," said Hayes.

"He's quite personal. You can't not like theguy," McKenney said.

Cash's willingness to participate in a widerange of activities has also made him respectedand well-liked, professors said.

"[Cash] is not at all someone who goes into hisown little specialty and is invisible. He's taughtin the MBA program, the executive program andinterfunctional programs," Hayes said.

Technological Know-How

As the sole computer buff among the fourrumored leading inside candidates for thedeanship, Cash would bring technological expertiseto an institution which many say needs to bringitself up to date.

"The [Business] School is behind in technologyfor a number of reasons. Jim will probably get usup to where we should be," McKenney said. "Heknows how to do it."

Multimedia systems promise to be an essentialpart of future business activities, BusinessSchool faculty said.

"A background in information technology issomething which is becoming increasingly importantin the world, particularly the business world,"Hayes said.

"We have to include it in the teaching processand get students and faculty communicatingelectronically with each other," he added.

"We have a big technology agenda that we'llhave to execute over the next two to three years,"McFarlan said.

As a consultant to various large corporations,Cash has helped others learn to manage the latestin information technology, McKenney said.

Cash currently serves on the board of TandyCorporation and is a trustee for the MassachusettsComputer Software Council.

Previously, he served on the board of directorsof the Sprint Corporation.

Cash graduated from Texas Christian Universitywith a B.S. in Mathematics. Before going on toobtain degrees in Computer Science and ManagementInformation Systems (MIS) at Purdue, he held avariety of computer-related jobs, including stintsas a systems analyst, systems programmer andapplication programmer.


Cash coaches a soccer team in Brighton and wasactive in setting up a Taft School OutreachProgram at the Business School, colleagues say.

MBA students who participate in the outreachprogram tutor middle school students in schoolworkand coach them in basketball on Saturday mornings.

Cash is also a trustee for the Boston Museum ofScience, a member of the Board of Directors forState Street Bank and Trust and a member of theeditorial board of the Harvard Business Review