The Business School that Bud Built

After 33 years, Bud Barnes is leaving the dean’s office and returning to teaching

By Kevin Taylor

Clarence “Bud” Barnes is a short-timer at Gonzaga University this autumn as dean of the School of Business Administration.


Barnes is set to return to teaching at the end of the calendar year. Which brings an end to his leadership of the business school only, oh, a mere 30 years later than he himself had predicted and places him among the longest-serving business deans in the nation.

“I only expected to do this a few years. It was a job I didn’t seek,” Barnes said, sipping from a mug of coffee during an early morning interview. Crammed with books, art and mementos, his office is functional, not showy. And it illustrates the dramatic changes that have come during Barnes’ tenure – changes that have brought a higher profile to the business school on campus, in Spokane and nationally.

“At the time Bud came to Gonzaga, the business school consisted of four faculty members with five or six offices in the basement of the Administration Building,” said his longtime friend, attorney and Trustee Emeritus Tom Tilford (’66).

Read about one of Bud’s early accomplishments as dean, When the Fed comes to Spokane. No one expected the chairman of the Federal Reserve to visit Spokane but he did.

Now, Gonzaga’s School of Business Administration has been nationally accredited for 30 years, attracts highly credentialed faculty, hosts popular business forums in the community and has earned high national rankings for several programs.

When Barnes arrived as an assistant professor of economics in 1973, only one other business professor had a Ph.D. It was a period that saw five deans during the 70s, including four in five years, and two failed national searches.

“The faculty were down, I was down, morale was down,” Barnes said.

After the last round of “musical chairs,” as he calls it, in the 1979-80 school year, Barnes advocated for a colleague to be named dean. But when he met with the University president, Father Bernard J. Coughlin, he learned that, “… somehow, the faculty had already visited the president and said, ‘We think if you approach Bud, he can step in and do the job.’ ”

Barnes initially declined. But he says that Coughlin offered a deal, “Father said, ‘Let’s do this: If you take it, let’s agree you‘ll take it for three years. I’ll need someone in there at least that long.’ ”

Three years? Hey, not so bad.

“And that’s what led me into the job,” Barnes said.

He may have tricked himself into believing he was just there to provide stability until a “real” dean could be hired, but Barnes had a vision for the kind of program Gonzaga should have. He began making changes – and didn’t stop for 33 years as it turned out. The changes have been substantial.

“He got us accredited – and when I say ‘he’ I’m really not exaggerating. He got us accredited. And he built the building,” said Ken Anderson, who came to Gonzaga as a basketball player and business student around the time Barnes was named dean. Anderson has been named interim dean as of January.

Anderson recalls one of his tasks as a grad assistant in 1981 was to comb through the card catalogues at the library and tally how many business books the University had. It was among the many details that needed to be addressed to meet accreditation criteria from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

A more substantive criteria for accreditation, Anderson said, “is how many of your faculty have Ph.D.s or J.D.s? One of the remarkable things he (Barnes) did is he essentially flipped the faculty from a non-Ph.D. faculty to a Ph.D. faculty in about five years.”

At the same time Barnes, whom Tilford calls “a voracious fund raiser,” by 1987 had a new building under construction to house the new faculty. The light-filled Jepson Center, which doubled in size during a recent expansion, and its view of Lake Arthur and the Spokane River have quite concretely lifted the business school out of the basement.

“It’s not a stretch to call him the father of the modern Gonzaga School of Business,” Anderson said.

Those initial three years passed in a blur, Barnes said, “There was so much to do.” His initial goals were specific: dive into the AACSB accreditation process, and hire professors with advanced degrees.

“I was influenced by the former dean at University of Oregon, Jim Reinmuth, who said, ‘Better scholars make better teachers.’ I really operated off that premise,” that scholars with advanced degrees continue digging into their fields, Barnes said. Academic curiosity is among the criteria for faculty evaluations now. He gestures to a long shelf on his left. “All of those books on the top shelf? Those are all by our faculty. And on top of that, there are the contributions to their disciplines through their journal articles and conference presentations. The faculty today, they come here with research degrees. Ph.D.s are research degrees.”

Despite the Jepson Center construction, one of Barnes’ most far-reaching changes may have been in breaking down walls, not building them. He was an early adopter of the radical principles in the 1982 book out of Stanford, “In Search of Excellence,” by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The duo called for “breaking down silos” in management and creating a broader sense of connection, creativity and decision-making. Barnes remembers thinking, “This is the future.”

“We’ve done something in the business school that very few have. We only have two majors, business administration and accounting. We don’t have department chairs. We have flattened out the business school,” Barnes said.

Born in 1941 near Cleveland, Ohio, Barnes is a child of the Rust Belt, growing up amidst the pulsing steel mills and factories when America was flexing its industrial muscle and when a businessman might join a company right out of college and stay there his entire career. It was the era of The Organization Man, Barnes said, only it’s not like that anymore.

The message he took from Waterman and Peters is that business schools were educating their students into extinction through rigid specialization. Students needed to be more creative and more integrative across disciplines, Barnes said. Instead of The Organization Man you need to be entrepreneurial in the manner of Bill Gates or Paul Allen or Mark Zuckerberg.

“You look at companies like Google and Facebook, and these were just ideas in college students’ minds,” he said. “Then they were introduced to someone who could help them with funding.”

Gonzaga students who want to turn their own brainstorms into businesses can turn to the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program – a project of President Father Robert Spitzer’s that has thrived during Barnes’ tenure.

Over the years, one constant, Barnes said, has been the need for a strong ethical core. Business students at Gonzaga are required to dip heavily into the University’s offerings in liberal arts, science and math on top of business courses and ethical case-studies. The intention is to send well-rounded individuals into the business world where, in the Jesuit tradition, they work to serve others as well as themselves.

“The question is, are they going to be ethical and moral and become, as Adam Smith says, ‘the invisible hand,’ ” Barnes said. “What we have tried not to do is impose values,” but rather, teach in a way that the values grow from within, he said.

“We try to stay away from, ‘Are these companies just money-grabbers, or are they trying to be efficient, or are they trying to survive?’ Hopefully, a school educates its students in a way that they’ll be sensitive, ethical, moral people both at work and in their communities. We try to raise values, and not impose them.”

Barnes, according to the AACSB, may well be the longest-serving business dean active today, following the retirement this summer of Quiester Craig of North Carolina A&T State University, dean there for 41 years.

Barnes’ longevity is unheard of, says Tilford. “It’s a terrible job in many respects because you have to be the boss of your peers. Bud has been truly remarkable in the dealings he has with his faculty. The faculty treats Bud with a great deal of respect but they are not above teasing him. He has a really collegial faculty, and I think that’s a tribute to Bud.”

Anderson, who says following Barnes will be like the coach who replaced UCLA basketball legend John Wooden, agrees that 33 years as dean is remarkable. “Deans in general don’t last more than 10 years because the positions have become so volatile.”

But in this case, “the invisible hand” that has guided Barnes has left a visible, and celebrated, legacy.

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