Joseph Wharton, a Philadelphia industrialist and philanthropist, invented collegiate business education when he established the School in 1881. Regarded as an innovator and visionary, his purpose was to “impart a liberal education in all matters concerning finance and economy.”
Thomas S. Robertson, 2007-2014
In his tenure as dean, Thomas S. Robertson championed business as a force for good. He institutionalized three strategic pillars – Social Impact, Innovation and Global Initiatives. He oversaw a comprehensive overhaul of the MBA curriculum, established the MBA “Semester in San Francisco,” and created the concept of Global Modular courses. He also led major initiatives—Lifelong Learning for alumni, the Wharton Public Policy Program, the establishment of the Penn-Wharton China Center, and a major commitment to online learning. Despite the financial crisis of 2008, Robertson led Wharton to exceed its campaign fundraising goal, raising $607 million, which allowed an increase in faculty size and a continued focus on faculty and student standards of excellence.
Patrick T. Harker, 1999-2007
Patrick T. Harker advanced and expanded the academic mission of the School, drawing many eminent faculty. He created Wharton | San Francisco and forged an alliance with INSEAD, the leading non-U.S. based business school. He also oversaw the launching of two innovative and successful initiatives: Knowledge@Wharton and Wharton School Publishing. Harker led Wharton to complete the largest fundraising campaign in its history, raising over $450 million.
Thomas P. Gerrity, 1990-1999
Thomas P. Gerrity oversaw the revolutionary reengineering of the School’s MBA and undergraduate programs to reflect the increasingly global and technology-oriented world, ultimately bringing the School unprecedented worldwide recognition for excellence. During his tenure, student applications, student quality, and endowment reached record levels. Additionally, he spearheaded the fundraising effort for Jon M. Huntsman Hall, the world’s premier business school academic facility, completed in 2002.
Russell E. Palmer, 1983-1990
Russell E. Palmer laid the foundation for Wharton to move into the forefront of business education at the graduate, undergraduate, and executive levels. Through his five-year “Plan for Preeminence,” Palmer successfully strengthened and broadened the faculty, increased the quality of applications the School received, oversaw the building of the Steinberg Conference Center (a state-of-the-art executive education facility) and furthered the process of creating an international and cross-disciplinary curriculum.
Donald C. Carroll, 1972-1983
At the time of his selection, Donald C. Carroll was the first dean to have come from outside the School. During his tenure, he enhanced the School’s depth and strength through the development of interdisciplinary programs and creation of inter-school degrees, including the undergraduate degree in Management & Technology. Additionally, Carroll significantly advanced Wharton’s international outreach efforts and executive education initiatives.
Willis J. Winn, 1958-1971
Willis J. Winn is credited with leading curricular reform and upgrading the quality of Wharton’s academic programs, the PhD and entrepreneurial programs in particular. In addition, Winn further strengthened Wharton’s reputation for research through his active recruitment of senior scholars.
C. Arthur Kulp, 1955-1957
C. Arthur Kulp, the first dean in Wharton’s history to be named with the participation of faculty, tragically died only two years into his administration. Prior to his death, however, Dean Kulp brought recognition to the School because of his expertise in the field of social insurance and his part in designing the Social Security System.
C. Canby Balderston, 1942-1954
C. Canby Balderston’s most significant contribution was the construction of the first building for the Wharton School, Dietrich Hall. The Wharton faculty, staff, and students had long been waiting for a building of their own, and it was Balderston who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to make the new construction possible.
Alfred H. Williams, 1939-1941
A protégé of Willits, Alfred H. Williams had chaired the Geography and Industry Department and the School’s Curriculum Committee prior to being named dean. Despite a very promising future at the Wharton School, his tenure lasted only two years when he left to become president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.
Emory R. Johnson, 1919-1933
Emory R. Johnson brought depth to Wharton’s programs by requiring professional specialization among faculty and students and, for the first time, organizing faculty into academic departments and subject groups. Johnson also brought the MBA program, once a part of the University curriculum, under Wharton’s control.
William C. McClellan, 1916-1919
William C. McClellan worked closely with University trustees to raise the stature of the School within the University and secure continued support from outside benefactors.
Roswell C. McCrea, 1912-1916
Under Roswell C. McCrea’s leadership, the Wharton faculty continued its study of social problems and strengthened ties with the City of Philadelphia’s government administrators, who relied upon Wharton faculty for their expertise.
Joseph H. Willits, 1933-1939
During his administration, Joseph H. Willits emphasized the importance of economic research and its application to the affairs of business. By raising the standards for faculty and fostering the pursuit of academic business research, Willits helped further Wharton’s reputation as a prestigious institution of scholarly research.
Simon N. Patten, 1896-1912
Influenced by the Progressive Movement, Simon N. Patten introduced concepts of “practical philanthropy” into Wharton’s curriculum and established a two-year course in social work. Under Patten’s leadership, Wharton was again in a position to influence government administrators who sought advice from Wharton faculty on various social problems of the day.
Edmund J. James, 1883-1896
Wharton’s first Director, Edmund J. James, was instrumental in expanding Wharton’s program and designing a practical curriculum that encouraged professional specialization along with instruction in the social sciences. James used his reputation and influence with Philadelphia’s leadership to obtain financing for additional faculty and bring research opportunities to the School.