It’s the personal relationships between students and faculty that set the Neeley School of Business apart from other business schools in the mind of O. Homer Erekson. The relationships Erekson forged during his college days at TCU still linger, and he hopes to develop new relationships with faculty and students as the new John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School.
After 34 years, the native Houstonian returns to his alma mater from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he served as dean of the Bloch School Of Business and Public Administration for six years. He also served as Harzfeld professor of economics and business policy during his term at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Prior to this experience, he spent 24 years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as the associate dean for academic affairs and associate dean for graduate studies. He also served in other positions which include director of planning and operations, economics department chair and honors coordinator. TCU appointed Erekson as the dean of the Neeley School of Business in March.
Q: How did you react when you were first offered the dean position at TCU’s Neeley School of Business?
A: I was very excited. As an alumnus of TCU, I know just how special TCU is as a university, and the good things the Neeley School is doing and can do in the future.
Q: How is the transition from being a student at TCU to the dean of the Business School 34 years later?
A: As a student, one of the things I really appreciated here was the very close contact I had with faculty. The classes were small so I really had the opportunity to know faculty, not only as an instructor, but to get to know them as people and learn how they pursue their professional work in teaching and research. I really had that close relationship. I think coming back as dean, one of the real hallmarks for TCU and the Neeley School is that very personal relationship between students and faculty. It’s still here. It’s been very clear the first two months, I’ve been visiting with faculty and some students, that it’s still one of the big strengths of the Neeley School and TCU, and we intend for it to stay that way.
Q: What are your goals for the Neeley School of Business?
A: I’d like to say we’re not going to change direction, but we’re going to elevate the programs that are here. To have a great program, a great university, or great Neeley School — it does take resources to fill that vision. We have to continue to be clear about our vision and to work with partners in the community and beyond who are willing to invest in the program and our students to elevate the quality of some the programs that are already very good, and to raise the Neeley flag and the TCU flag in a very bold way with the greater Dallas-Fort Worth community, and well beyond. We have graduates all over the country and the world. We have to tell our story, excite people and develop those partnerships.
Q: What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
A: Personally, the biggest challenge is finding time to do all the things that need to be done. There’s so many good opportunities for the Neeley School and TCU. It’s going to be important for all of us to prioritize to do the very best we can so that we can be effective in building partnerships.
Q: Under your leadership, where do you see the Neeley School of Business in the next five years?
A: I think you’ll see us having the best undergraduate business program in the state of Texas. You’ll see the graduate programs continue to increase in quality, and increasingly build a reputation that has national respect. I think we’ll see over that five year period, greater and increased partnerships with Dallas-Fort Worth businesses so that we’re telling our story and we’re adding value both to our students and those businesses.
Q: Did you ever dream of being a dean someday during your college days at TCU?
A: As an undergraduate, you look at so many possibilities. I’ll always be a student because I like to learn whether its about business, economics, science or religion. I grew up with parents who were both teachers, so education has always been important. Whether the route led to me being a faculty member, dean or being a student in another profession, as a student, you don’t know. One of the exciting things, for myself and students now, is that we’re preparing our graduates at the Neeley School and TCU not only for employment or graduate school right after graduation, but for careers that may not even exist in the form they do now.
Q: What do you look forward to this year?
A: Lots of things. Finding the next visionary step for the school, finding the path for the next five years, and working with faculty, staff and students to identify that vision. I look forward to a winning football and basketball season. I look forward to the great opportunities on this campus like concerts and speakers. I look forward to getting to know Fort Worth even better, the wonderful restaurants and people in the community. It’s a wonderful quality of life, and for my family who’s not from Fort Worth, to get to know Fort Worth in a very rich way.
Q: What’s your fondest memory at TCU?
A: I had so many good friends to share a lot of memories with whether it was in the classroom, playing intramural basketball or marching band. I had an active student life. On the other side, it was the faculty I got the opportunity to know. I really enjoyed the Honors Program. I enjoyed the four honors seminars I participated in, and the experience of writing an honors thesis. Those were very special learning experiences, but beyond that, they were fun.