When global banker Robert L. Joss became dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1999, the school's current tagline — Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world. — did not exist. By the time he stepped down from that position in 2009, it had become a well-established articulation of the school's vision and direction for the 21st century.
Joss' 10 years of leadership at Stanford GSB helped move the school forward in fulfilling that vision. Among other accomplishments, his tenure oversaw the funding and planning for construction of the 360,000-square-foot Knight Management Center that opened in 2011 and the development of a new MBA curriculum under the direction of now Dean Garth Saloner. Joss established greater collaboration with other schools at Stanford to encourage multidisciplinary learning. On March 12, 2012, he was recognized for these contributions, among others, as the 42nd recipient of the prestigious Ernest C. Arbuckle award.
Sponsored annually by the Stanford GSB Alumni Association, the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award recognizes excellence in management leadership. The award was created in 1968 in honor of the late business school dean, whose name it bears. Recipients demonstrate a commitment to both managerial excellence and to addressing the changing needs of society.
Joss and "Ernie" Arbuckle had a long history together, dating back to Joss' time as a business school student at Stanford, when Arbuckle served as the dean. Arbuckle served as Joss' trusted mentor, advising him to pursue a prestigious fellowship at the White House and later recruiting him to work at Wells Fargo Bank. Joss spent 22 years at Wells Fargo, rising to the position of vice chairman, and subsequently became CEO of Westpac, one of Australia's largest banking groups.
When he was offered the job to become dean of Stanford GSB, Joss thought of his mentor and, as he reflected at the March awards ceremony, arrived at his decision. "How wonderful it would be to serve the school [as Ernie had], and to be a part of that legacy," Joss told the audience of more than 400 attendees. "The school had done so much for me — if I could draw on all my experiences since leaving, and somehow help make it an even better place, well what could be better than that? Few people ever get such a chance."
A leader in global banking, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and a Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA ('67) and PhD ('70), Joss was Stanford GSB's first dean from industry in 17 years. He brought with him seasoned business leadership skills, persistence, and integrity, all of which enabled him to launch a collaborative effort that would result in an innovative, cross-disciplinary curriculum; two new joint degrees; and the establishment of centers for Leadership Development and Research, Global Business and the Economy, and Social Innovation. Each center created a critical mass of case work, activities, and course support in their respective areas.
As dean, Joss also oversaw the planning and launch of fundraising to support Stanford GSB priorities as part of an unprecedented university-wide campaign, The Stanford Challenge. With his continued leadership, he helped the school raise $884 million for new endowed student fellowships and faculty positions; integrated multidisciplinary, curricular innovations with the school's centers; increased broad-based annual giving; and the construction of the Knight Management Center.
"Bob's life, his career, his contributions to Stanford and to the society at large have been nothing short of exceptional, and that, of course, is what the Arbuckle award is all about," observed Professor Emeritus George Parker during the event. "As dean of the business school, Bob was a major change agent with a long list of accomplishments. At the end of his term as dean, it's safe to say that never has the business school been held in such high esteem across the rest of the campus."
Today, Joss serves as Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean, Emeritus, at Stanford GSB, with teaching interests in general management and organizational leadership. He is currently a director of Citigroup, Bechtel Group, Makena Capital Management, and CM Capital; and is active in Australian-American affairs, serving as co-chair of the advisory board for the U.S. Studies Center at Sydney University. In 2001 he received the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society.