Brit, businessman, clockmaker: Meet the new dean of the Olin Business School
Highly regarded by administrators for his achievements in academia, breadth of experience and personable nature, Mark Taylor is more than qualified to take over as the dean of the Olin Business School.
But, when Taylor makes his way across the pond to assume his duties on Nov. 30, he’ll still stand out as a unique choice.
Taylor comes to Washington University from Warwick Business School in England, where he currently serves as dean. While international candidates are not excluded from searches for faculty members, they typically are among those who do not advance to the final round, Provost Holden Thorp said, making Taylor’s selection a bit out of the ordinary.
Many international education systems differ from the system in the United States, Thorp said, making it unusual for candidates to know everything they need to about the system in the U.S. The system in the United Kingdom, however, is the closest to the American system, he added.
“It makes sense that if we had an international candidate, they would be from the U.K,” Thorp said.
Given Washington University’s international reputation and the globalized nature of today’s world, Taylor doesn’t anticipate the move being too difficult.
“The world is shrinking because of increased connectivity and trade. In fact, that’s something that’s very important to take account of in business education,” Taylor wrote in an email to Student Life. “So, to me, St. Louis doesn’t seem very far from Warwick: it’s just across the pond.”
Taylor will take on his new role starting Nov. 30. The delay is attributed to what Professor Ralph Quatrano, who chaired the search committee for the position, called “trailing responsibilities” from Taylor’s current position with Warwick, in addition to the incredibly fast-paced search-and-hire process, which took only five months in total.
Although Taylor will officially assume his new position over five months from now, he’s already getting to work. Hoping to build on the legacy left by current Olin Business School Dean Mahendra Gupta and those who preceded him, he’s already begun to meet with U.K.-based alumni, as well as Gupta and former deans Stuart Greenbaum and Robert Virgil.
Taylor said he hopes to take both tradition and change into consideration for his plans and will also continue to meet with faculty, staff, students, alumni, the business school’s advisory board, the University and corporate partners in both St. Louis and London.
“Leadership is as much about continuity as about change…It is also important to understand and respect the school’s unique culture and traditions. Although I have many ideas about developing [Olin Business School], I want to start by spending time talking with the various stakeholders,” Taylor wrote. “Out of this process, we shall develop a new and ambitious strategic vision and a strategic plan for the school.”
Taylor’s own academic accomplishments include bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oxford in politics, philosophy and economics, in addition to master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of London’s Birkbeck College, the University College London and the University of Liverpool.
His career experience is just as extensive—Taylor served as a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund for five years, worked as a managing director of a large global macro investment fund with BlackRock Financial for four years and held professorships at universities like the Cass Business School in London and the University of Liverpool—all of which made him qualified for the job, specifically from a business perspective.
But that’s not where all of Taylor’s expertise and experience lies. Taylor also holds degrees outside of business—a Master of Business Administration with a Higher Education Management specialization and a master’s degree of English Literature. It was his well-rounded breadth of experience within and outside of the field of business that made him stand out, Thorp said.
“He’s an expert on the Shakespeare play ‘King John,’ he had a great administrative career at Warwick, moving them from really a place where they were quite challenged to a prominent place in the U.K. business world, so he’s been a successful dean for six years,” Thorp said, adding that Taylor’s experience at the hedge fund would help relate to alumni and find jobs. “When you put all of that together, it’s one of the most comprehensive packages that I’ve seen in my years of hiring people for jobs like this.”
Taylor had a similar thought process when he decided to pursue the deanship at Warwick, as he saw developing his broad and diverse academic interests could aid in his greater goals as dean—even if these goals weren’t directly related to business.
“It occurred to me a few years ago that being a business school dean might be a good career option for me, and I therefore took two part-time degrees that would help me do the job better,” Taylor wrote. “The [English degree] may seem a little surprising at first, but in my view it’s important to think broadly about business education and university education more generally, and the arts have a lot to offer [to] the business leaders and managers of tomorrow.”
Quatrano added that Taylor was a standout pick due to his international experience and dedication to academia. His experience outside the field of business, Quatrano said, would only aid in the interactions Taylor will have with faculty and students outside of Olin Business School.
“I think it was his total nature of scholarship that really impressed me and the committee … he’s got those kind of credentials that are broader than just business,” Quatrano said. “He personifies international everything—languages, interactions, student experiences…So it fits really well with what’s already been started with [the business school], but he brings to it another level of international exposure.”
Taylor said that he was attracted to Washington University because of its history of achievement as well as its research reputation and undergraduate program. But, in addition to these factors, the personality of the school also stood out to him during the interview process.
“I was overwhelmed with the sense of commitment and community here, and I quickly became convinced that there was a strong cultural fit and that my skills and background were well-suited to leading the Olin [Business] School. In the end, I was fortunate to be offered deanships at a number of first-rate institutions outside the U.K., but when [Washington University] offered me the job, I had no hesitation in accepting immediately,” Taylor said.
Quatrano also noted that it is Washington University and the Olin Business School’s status that created the opportunity to bring in highly qualified applicants like Taylor.
“We never would have attracted someone like that if we didn’t already have a business school that was already highly ranked,” Quatrano said. “He’s well-qualified to do it and I have no doubt that he will. He’s demonstrated it, he’s got all the credentials [and] he’s got the personality and the personal skills to move it forward.”
Although Taylor said he’s excited to make St. Louis his home and to get to work in his new position, there are some things that he certainly will miss as he leaves Warwick behind. One such thing is a clockmaker friend who has helped him maintain his clock collection. Taylor’s penchant for horology and the “fine” collection of clocks and watches, some dating back to the seventeenth century, inspired his extracurricular interest in clock restoration, which he’s pursued for the past 15 years.
“Indeed, I have restored all of my clocks myself, under my friend’s expert supervision. Clearly, that will have to come to an end,” Taylor wrote. “On the other hand, perhaps 15 years is long enough for an apprenticeship, and I will certainly set up my own workshop at my new home in St. Louis. So this will be a new chapter for me in more ways than one.”