Posted by: scott | April 16, 2010

dean henry

Maybe it’s the fact that the school year is coming to an end, or that the fact that I’m just coincidentally stumbling upon these sort of events, but a week or two ago, I had the opportunity to listen to another distinguished individual at NYU, the recently appointed new dean of Stern, Dean Peter Blair Henry.

Dean Henry was appointed the dean of Stern this past fall, and previously, served as an economics professor at Stanford University. A couple of interesting points about him include the fact that he was an immigrant from Jamaica (in January of 1972 if I remember correctly), that he was a wide receiver at the University of North Carolina, and that he was a Rhodes Scholar, earning a B.A. in mathematics at Oxford before getting his PhD in economics at MIT.

During his speech, Dean Henry expressed that his immediate goals for Stern were to increase alumni support and to expand the school’s global presence. One point that stuck out in his talk was that he mentioned how NYU Stern is the only school that he would have wanted to be the dean of. It’s always difficult to tell at talks like these how much of one’s speech is true and how much is sensationalism, but the reasons that he gave for saying that was that Stern was one of the few business schools with a strong undergraduate presence (many business schools do not have undergraduate programs) and that he was really enamored by the NYU experience. Having come to NYC from Jamaica when he was still fairly young, he felt like he himself could relate to the typical NYU student and the typical New Yorker. I found the relation between that comment and some of the statements that President Sexton made about NYU’s distinct personality to be pretty interesting.

On a somewhat different note, a question popped into my head during Dean Henry’s talk. Dean Henry was an economist by profession (a macroeconomist to be exact). Our previous Dean, Professor Thomas Cooley, was also an economist. Naturally, one starts to wonder if economics represents the most fitting academic area for running a business school. And even further, one asks which is the most fitting department to run a university. I can definitely see the rationale behind why economists would be good administrators, and another field that comes to mind when considering this question is definitely law. People who are trained to think analytically in a social context and to digest complicated pieces of information and come up with an overarching thought would logically be fit to handle the many intricate parts that must be managed in running a school or university. At the same time, the example of Professor Larry Summers and his infamous comment about the inferiority of women show that critical thinking must also be matched with tact when you’re the face of a public institution. Given that Larry Summers is still an economist and somewhat trained in a “social science,” one can only wonder how a mathematician would fare in running a university.

There was one last thing that happened at this event that really piqued my curiosity. It should be noted that Dean Henry was speaking at a Stern Inter-Club Council meeting (though open to the entire student body), and because of this, one of my friends, knowing that I wasn’t an officer of any Stern club, looked at me incredulously and asked me what I was doing at the event — almost as if the only reason he was there was because he was required to be. This made me start to wonder if all the other students in the room were there simply because they had to be. Was it really so out of place to want to listen to the dean of your school give a talk? Those people who know me know that I am not someone who is particularly bubbling with school spirit nor am I someone who is particularly fond of chosen institution. Yet, for some reason reason, I still felt a need to listen and learn about what will become of Stern when I graduate, and I thought that it was not only a nice but a necessary opportunity to hear the dean speak about the future of my school. That’s how you know whether or not things will improve.



  1. This entry is very… you.

    I think a lot of people take things that are around them for granted. When you are surrounded by a deluge of different activities, events, and speakers, it’s easy to overlook all of them as a collective unit of “things that don’t concern me.” It’s good that there are people like you out there who can still focus when swimming in chaos 🙂 I think participating in these sorts of things give you perspective… maybe one day when you’re doing something great, you’ll think back on that day when you heard a certain person speak and their ideas will guide you in making a good decision.

    Also, I can easily see you being one of these distinguished individuals, and imagine some student who is still finding his way stumbling across one of your talks and pondering about it in his futuristic blog.

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