John Kraft stands outside Bryan Hall

Celebrating Dean Kraft’s 30-Year Legacy

John Kraft retires as dean of the Warrington College of Business at the end of July. As Warrington prepares for its first dean transition since 1990, we asked his colleagues what they learned and they’ll remember from his tenure as Warrington dean.

Dr. Joe Alba

Joe Alba (James W. Walter Eminent Scholar Chair, Distinguished Professor):

“Most people are unaware that John is the lovechild of Don Rickles and Mother Teresa. I have long viewed his heritage as a genetic win-win. On the one hand, whenever I sensed my self-esteem growing too positive, I would walk over to John’s office to get recalibrated. On the other hand, whenever I needed anything for an individual, for my department, or for a program, John would quickly and cleverly find a way to deliver it. Over 13 years as department chair, I cannot recall an instance in which he said “no” to me. I also cannot recall an instance in which he did not treat me or my unit with complete fairness. It is widely understood that his generosity and fairness extended across the entire college. The results are plainly evident not only in our thriving culture and the personal fulfillment of our faculty, staff, and students but also the heights scaled by the Warrington College. Personally, John has been a faithful partner and supporter. Were it not for the encouragement and collaboration, I would not be here to celebrate the closing of this chapter of his career and to wish him a future level of fulfillment that matches that of those who have worked with him.”

Dr. Fiona Barnes

Fiona Barnes (Director, Management Communication Center):

“Thanks to John Kraft’s visionary leadership, the Warrington College of Business was one of the first schools to offer a fully accredited online MBA degree in 1999. I have to confess: I did not celebrate this move back then! Together with many others, I thought that this innovation would be a failed educational experiment, and I complained about the loss of in-person interaction, direly predicting how it would lead to disaster. And yet here I am, not only teaching MBA students fully online 20 years later but enjoying doing so. And I’m proud of the fact that our online MBA programs are consistently ranked among the world’s best by the Financial Times and US News and World Report. Who knew? Oh, that’s right, apparently Dean Kraft did.”

Selcuk ErengucS. Selcuk Erenguc (George W. and Lisa O. Etheridge, Jr. Professor, Senior Associate Dean, Director of the Hough Graduate School of Business):

“I have been working with John Kraft for over thirty years.  First as a faculty member, then as a Department Chair, then as Associate Dean and finally as Senior Associate Dean and the Director of Hough Graduate School of Business.  When I ask myself “What is the one sentence that will rightfully describe what John has done for the College in his long tenure here?” The first answer that comes to me is: John Kraft put the Warrington College of Business on THE MAP.  Among his attributes are creativity, innovativeness, flexibility and fairness. It has been a rewarding experience and great pleasure working with him.  John Kraft leaves behind some very big shoes to fill.”

Dr. Gary McGill

Gary McGill (J. Roy Duggan Professor, Associate Dean of the Warrington College of Business, Director of the Fisher School of Accounting):

“Working with John Kraft has been like earning a second PhD in academic leadership. As a Warrington faculty member for over 30 years, I have always appreciated John’s strategic approach, his ability to think outside the box, and most importantly his transparency.  But the last 15 years as Director of the Fisher School and Associate Dean gave me a front row seat on how to run a business school. I use the management principles John has instilled in me every day in my role at the Fisher School—one has to be nimble, transparent, and laser focused on quality. He also taught me that it is okay to experiment, take risks, and ultimately take the heat if one’s decisions are not always appreciated. I have often thought about how lucky I am to have spent almost my entire academic career working with the most successful Dean in our profession. John is a man of few words, but those he chooses are full of insight and, most importantly,  great wit. John has often commented that he could have done so much more if he’d only had better associate deans. I’m never sure whether he’s being funny or honest. Either way, I’d do it all over again.”

Megan Leroy (Director, Teaching & Learning Center):

“Thankfully and gratefully, I would say Dean Kraft is a force to be reckoned with–a force for good, a voice for change, a champion of innovation, a defender of his own. He has never failed to recognize how, why, and when we need to chart a new path (I’m pretty sure he was thinking about online learning before I was born). He has also never failed to be a true technology pioneer (in case you didn’t know, he pilots the pre-beta versions of many of our simulations, to the nervous anticipation of our vendor partners). And he has never failed to support his people; I’ve watched him repeatedly lobby for his faculty and staff in the face of uncertainty (even, now, amidst a pandemic). 
 
“He’s got quite a resume, but the resume isn’t even the best story. I’ve never worked for someone with so much experience who still cares to include his colleagues in thoughtful, strategic conversations. It seems to not even be a thought for him to face a challenge and then immediately call in his local “expert.” That expert is someone he’s hired, trained, funded, and supported long enough to become the best at what they do. We have a lot of “bests” at Warrington. (I’m pretty sure the rest of the university is jealous.) But including others has, for him, never been an action that shows weakness. Instead, his intentional collegiality has held us together and taught us all to rely on the unit rather than the individual. We still stand strong.
 
“He’s also never failed to be at Starbucks by 7am, answer an email in under two hours, say what everyone else is thinking, and brazenly steal the last piece of chocolate. For his wit, his candor, and his good taste in confection, he will be merely missed. For his leadership, his authenticity, and his vision, he will be remembered.

Richard Lutz

Richard Lutz (J.C. Penney Professor of Marketing, Chair of the Marketing Department):

“It is really difficult to “write a paragraph” about John Kraft.  No matter what I write, it won’t – can’t – do him justice.  I have known John for nearly 40 years and have had the honor of serving under his leadership for the past 30 years.  I have seen him in action in many settings, and I have marveled at the way he deals decisively with exceedingly complex challenges.  He possesses a unique combination of visionary, strategic thinking and razor-sharp analytical ability.  He has needed both to navigate the Warrington College through some very difficult times to emerge as one of the premier public business schools in the world.  His core values surround scholarship and excellence.  He knows who the key faculty are around the U.S. in every business discipline.  Nothing is more important to him than an outstanding faculty scholar.  And he never sends mixed signals on that commitment.  One of my favorite “Dean Kraft” stories highlights both his academic values and his creativity.  A few years ago, we were in danger of losing a key young faculty member to a peer school.  We matched the offer, but the problem remained that a close relative was a tenured finance professor there, and the two families were close.  Sensing the issue, John’s solution was to try to hire the relative!  The hire didn’t work out, but the signal was loud and clear.  We retained our valued colleague, and the rest of the faculty recognized – again – just how important scholarship is to our dean.  We have been the envy of our colleagues across the country for the past 30 years; he has truly been a faculty dean, and his impact on the Warrington College has been enormous.  As I said at the outset, a paragraph – even this long one – is insufficient.  I didn’t even get to talk about his love of sports; despite all his accomplishments and responsibilities, he always had time to talk about the Gators or the Buffalo Bills!”