When Randolph W. Westerfield was named dean of the Marshall School of Business at USC in December 1993, Los Angeles was in the throes of a recession. Westerfield nevertheless vowed to raise $100 million for the school by the end of the decade.
Though such fund-raising promises are rare and difficult to keep, Westerfield pulled it off. In fact, the Marshall School raised the $100 million (including a $35 million donation from USC alumnus Gordon S. Marshall that gave the school its name) with two and a half years to spare.
Aside from his work at the Marshall School, Westerfield's name is familiar to business school students around the world. His textbooks, including "Corporate Finance," which is in its fifth edition, are used in the nation's top business schools and have been translated into Italian, Chinese, Spanish and Dutch.
At USC, Westerfield also helped the Marshall School reach another milestone ranking among the top 25 business schools in the country by Business Week and U.S. News & World Report.
It's not a bad track record for a graduate of cross-town rival UCLA.
Question: How were you able to raise $100 million in a place like L.A., which has a reputation for not being all that charitable?
Answer: Well, it wasn't that tough. When I became dean and did an inventory of the school and went over the school's balance sheet and income statements, the first thing that was clear was that we were very under-endowed, and very under-endowed with respect to our competition.
We did benchmarking exercises. We compared ourselves to Wharton and Stanford and Chicago and all those great schools. We found they just had a lot more money in their banks than we had in our banks. And ultimately, success does depend upon financial resources. Money isn't everything, but it does translate into recruiting better faculty, it translates into fellowships and scholarships, it translates into bricks and mortar facilities. It's much tougher to get to that next level of success without it than with it.
One of the very first conversations I had with our president, Steve Sample, was how much was it going to take. Steve told me that the university itself was going to try to raise a billion dollars, and that he expected the business school to be an enthusiastic participant in that capital campaign. I said we would be about as enthusiastic as you can get.
Q: Did he give you an actual dollar amount?
A: No, we just talked (in general) about it. The benchmarking we did at the time was that Michigan's business school was the only business school that had ever gone on record as trying to achieve $100 million. We sort of locked in on that number. It seemed like a pretty lofty goal.
We knew that Harvard and Wharton and other schools had raised a lot of money, but they never publicly announced their intention to do such a thing We're still in our capital campaign, and we've raised a lot more than $100 million.
Q: Where does the campaign stand?
A: My guess is probably $125 million. I think we probably could've aimed even higher, going back to December 1993 when we first started thinking about this.
Q: Mostly you're going after your own alumni, but is there a competitive situation between UCLA and USC in terms of fund-raising?
A: Not so much in fund-raising. We have been much more successful than UCLA in raising money. But a lot of that is because our alumni network is so much bigger and probably more successful, too, because we've been graduating people from our business school for 75 years, and UCLA is a relatively young player.
UCLA is our biggest competitor because they're right here in Southern California. Most of the students who come here are comparing USC to Wharton or Chicago. There are a bunch of schools out there they're benchmarking, and UCLA is one of them. But it's only one of them. So I don't really think of myself as competing with UCLA. I think of myself as sort of competing with 20 or 25 other pretty good business schools.
Q: For the first time, the Marshall School is among the top 25 business schools ranked by both Business Week and U.S. News and World Report. When you came on board, did you commit to that, or is it a side issue?
A: No, it's not a side issue. It's right there on the front burner. It's not rankings per se. My feeling about rankings is that, generally speaking, in the long run, they reflect the underlying fundamentals. And since I can't control the rankings directly, the best thing to do is work on the fundamentals. The rankings will take care of themselves.
But they're important because they do reflect the underlying realities in some long-term, general sense. And a lot of people pay attention to rankings. We're a school that wants to be recognized as one of the best business schools in the world.
Q: You're one of the more senior business school deans in California. How long do you expect to be at USC?
A: Well, I was just re-appointed for another five years, so I could stay around for a while if I wanted to.
Q: Do you plan to?
A: Sure. I've really enjoyed these past five years. It's a lot of fun. It's a hard job. It's a seven-day-a-week, 24-hours-a-day kind of a job lots of weekends, lots of traveling, lots of off-campus work. I knew that was going to be true, though. I remember joking to faculty five years ago that if they saw my car in the parking lot, it probably meant I was on campus fouling things up in one way or another.
What we really needed was somebody who was willing to promote and market the school to the corporate community, to our alums somebody who was willing to do what it took to build up the endowment, to build up the financial viability of the school. There isn't a weekend that goes by that I'm not at some event, and most of the time it's more than one.
Q: What percentage of your working time is devoted to fund-raising?
A: About 40 percent of my time is off campus marketing, promoting, developing relationships and connections, with the various groups out there.
When I'm on campus, I would say it's split between the Marshall School and the provost's office. I'm a member of the provost's executive committee and the budget steering group of the university. Part of marketing the Marshall School is marketing the Marshall School to the provost and the president. They're pretty important people to tell our story to.
Q: What changes have been made over the last couple years in the Marshall School's curriculum?
A: We're trying to internationalize our curriculum. One example of that is a program we call PRIME Pacific Rim Education. And PRIME is a program where at the end of the first year of our regular MBA program, each student spends some time in a foreign country doing business with a company that does business in that foreign country.
Q: What kind of work?
A: We're sending 50 students to Shanghai this year, and they might be working with Citicorp to figure out how to develop a credit card business in China marketing, sales, etc. We have a version of that program called Globe, which we will incorporate into our part-time MBA program. We've done PRIME for three years, and Globe is going to be launched next year.
We are trying to also emphasize electronic commerce and information technology, and we have a new course in our regular MBA program called "Electronic Commerce." We're one of the few MBA programs that requires all students to take this course in electronic commerce. They learn how businesses run and how companies utilize these new electronic technologies and telecommunications technologies. That's a course in its second year.
We have just launched a new minor in entertainment management in our undergraduate business program. We have a concentration like that in our MBA program, but now we've expanded. It's a joint course with the School of Cinema/TV.
Q: Have you put any new emphasis on ethics?
A: We do actually have an ethics course in our MBA program, but what we're trying to do is incorporate ethics into PRIME. What is considered ethical in one country is considered to be morally abhorrent in another country. Sometimes it's trivial stuff, and sometimes it's very important stuff. And some of the countries our students are going to are among the most corrupt countries in the world, and it provides a very interesting learning experience for these students. Not all of the countries we're visiting are corrupt.
Randolph W. Westerfield
Organization: Marshall School of Business at USC
Born: New York City, 1941
Education: B.A. in economics, UCLA, 1963; M.A. in economics, UCLA, 1965; Ph.D. in finance, UCLA, 1968
Career Turning Points: Going into an economics graduate program; deciding in 1968 to work at Wharton School; moving to Southern California to work at USC
Most Admired Person: His father
Personal: Divorced, two children
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.