USC Trojans This & That — 6/11

John A. Byrne (Poets & Quants)  —  In a highly unusual move, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has agreed to accept the deanship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, according to sources.

Geoffrey Garrett, who has been dean of Wharton for just under five years, will stay at Wharton for one more year before assuming the job in July of 2020, sources told Poets&Quants. Gareth James, a Marshall professor for more than two decades, will serve as interim dean beginning July 1 and lasting until Garrett’s arrival the following year.

Garrett will succeed the highly popular Jim Ellis, who departs the job at the end of this month, forced out by interim USC President Wanda Austin and Provost Michael Quick for undisclosed reasons. The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed sources, attributed the decision to cut short Ellis’ third consecutive five-year term as dean to mishandled gender and racial bias complaints at the school, a claim that Ellis has vigorously denied.


The decision to oust the dean has led to widespread controversy, campus protests and bad publicity at a university already embroiled in a series of negative news, from its prominence in the most recent college admissions scandal to earlier reports that a long-time gynecologist at the campus health center had mistreated students for decades. And now the administration’s choice in bringing on Garrett will give Ellis’ supporters more ammunition to attack the university.

Garrett, sources say, is being hired without a full search for a successor. The deanship was never advertised by the university, nor did the university utilize a search firm to conduct a thorough search for a successor. The only person interviewed by the search committee and a handful of deans from other university schools was Garrett, according to sources.

“This was not a search,” maintains a source close to the school who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This was a coronation. They hired him in a vacuum. This is all about declaring a victory lap by Austin and Quick as they are going out the door. Does that mean that he is the best fit for the Marshall School? Absolutely not. You can’t know that because he didn’t have to compete with other candidates for the job.”

Advocates of Jim Ellis (left) were clearly disappointed in the outcome. “I can well appreciate why Geoff Garrett would want a one-year cooling-off period before coming to Marshall,” says Lloyd Greif, a Marshall alum and donor and a strong supporter of Ellis. “Temperatures are running pretty hot at the school right now. “I’m sorry, but the end doesn’t justify the means. Whether Geoff Garrett’s the best person for the job is not the point.

“Jim Ellis did nothing wrong and should still be dean for the next three years. He doesn’t deserve the disrespect and mistreatment accorded him by the university.”

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I never met Jim Ellis, but knew his Mom who lived two doors down from my parents at Villa Gardens in Pasadena, CA. As I understand the facts show, Dean Ellis INCREASED diversity within the Marshall School of Business. I used to be a Marshall Partner when working but due to health reasons, had to retire before I wanted to do so and can’t afford the Partner level of support anymore. I’m so glad Wanda Austin is leaving. She was in way over her head, IMO, as Interim University President and for some oddball reason, appears to have had some… Read more »


Does anyone besides me hope this transition goes smoother than the last few changes made at USC? There is a whole year to leverage this change for a better salary, and while I don’t think this will happen, mentioning it here gives me the right to say I told you so. The fact that these high profile positions take a while for the appointment to start, bothers me. The new president is still a few weeks away from taking her seat and she has already hired a new dean? These midnight appointments are curious. I’m not saying it is a… Read more »