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The year before Jiambalvo took over in 2004, Foster had been relegated to a second-tier of unranked schools by Businessweek and didn’t even make the top 100 in either U. Both deans came from humble backgrounds, selecting the field of accounting as a platform to gain academic credibility and a springboard into highly successful deanships.They smartly leveraged their business communities in the climb, Jacobs in Chicago and Jiambalvo in Seattle, thanks to a dynamic economy driven by the explosive growth of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Costco, Nordstrom and Boeing.Since Folks joined UB in late 2012, SEAS has grown significantly.The school hired an additional 75 faculty members, and its student population grew by 2,700—a more than 50% increase.When the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business began searching for a new leader after the abrupt departure of its dean, Jim Jiambalvo was not exactly enthused about the job.An accounting professor at the school for the past 27 years since 1977, he had taught in every business program, chaired the accounting department for three years, racked up several university teaching awards, wrote a textbook on managerial accounting and served on curriculum committees to rethink student learning.HE HAS LED AN AMAZING RECORD OF TRANSFORMATION AND SUCCESS When he departs the deanship at the age of 70 in July of this coming year, succeeded by another accounting professor Frank Hodge, he will leave a school that has been enduringly transformed in every way.
“I still have a document with notes I wrote to myself about what I would do in the first six months.
“I thought they would go outside and said to myself, ‘Why muck around with this?
I don’t want to end my career failing, and it’s pretty easy to fail as a dean.’ Then, we had three finalists for the job and for whatever reason, none of them pushed the ball over the goal line.” Bucked up by his wife, Cheryl, and a couple of faculty members, he finally decided to go for it, still thinking that if the university president decided to keep the search open, he would just forget about it.
Both deans never sought the spotlight, instead preferring to do the hard work necessary to recruit top faculty and students and put them in an environment where they could do their best work. His father ran a gourmet grocery story in downtown Chicago in the 1950s while his mother was a homemaker.
“They had a 30-foot fish counter and I worked in the produce department in the summers,” remembers Jiambalvo.
But he had little ambition to ever become the dean at the University of Washington or any another business school, for that matter.