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Updated: October 2, 2023

That didn’t last long: David Jordan delays retirement to help reshape Clark business school

A photo of David Jordan Photos | Courtesy of Clark University David Jordan, dean of the School of Management at Clark University

David Jordan officially retired from a decades-long career as president and CEO at Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates on July 1.

Jordan had planned on easing his way into retirement as president of the Crotched Mountain School in New Hampshire, which is now under Seven Hills’ purview, returning him to the role he had before taking over Seven Hills.

Then, on July 10, he got a call from David Fithian, president of Clark University. Fithian told Jordan about his goals for Clark and his intentions to expand the scope and scale of the Worcester university, where Jordan had been an adjunct professor in the School of Management for nearly 20 years.

A few days later, he called Jordan again, asking him to come out of his new retirement to serve as interim dean of Clark’s business school – the School of Management – a role he wanted Jordan to assume for a year or more to advise the university.

A chart showing Clark University's endowment, 2019-2021
A chart showing Clark University's endowment, 2019-2021

“If it had been any other organization or quite frankly any other leader, I probably would have said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you,’” said Jordan.

To Fithian, though, Jordan said yes, and as the academic year ramps up, Jordan has big goals for the Clark’s School of Management, aiming to transform its curriculum using his own experience and acumen to help the school prepare students to be business leaders with purpose.

“Is it just about making money, or contributing to the welfare of society? We are expanding the historically narrow view of what a business education is,” said Jordan. “We need to change our curriculum to benefit students and society at large.”

A serial social entrepreneur

Jordan earned his master's degree in public administration at Clark, but his professional affiliation was with the massive Worcester nonprofit Seven Hills, the largest human services nonprofit in Central Massachusetts he had basically built from the ground up since 1995. As of fiscal 2022, Seven Hills had $373 million in annual revenue, according to the organization's tax filings.

When Jordan stepped down as the leader of Seven Hills earlier this year, his wife, the longtime second-in-command at the organization, took over the role of president and CEO. Kathleen Jordan said she was not totally surprised when her husband’s retirement did not last long.

A photo of Kathleen Jordan
Photo | Courtesy of Seven Hills Foundation
Kathleen Jordan, president and CEO of the Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates

“He is a serial social entrepreneur. It's part of his DNA,” she said. “It explains so much of Seven Hills’ growth.”

Now, Jordan wants to take that mindset and rethink what Clark does with its school of management and reimagine the future of business.

“We are small enough that we can do it. We are agile enough that we can do it, and we have the commitment of leadership to do it,” said Jordan.

While it was a surprise to Jordan to find himself back at work so soon after he planned to retire, Clark leadership said for the school, the timing was ideal.

“It’s the perfect fit, perfect time,” said Sebastian Royo, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Clark.

Traditionally, the school of management dean has been an academic, Royo said, but as the school looks to adapt and innovate for the future needs of the business world, bringing in someone with industry experience and a local, national, and international network was essential.

“Based on what's happening in the world, we felt it important to bring someone with a different perspective,” Royo said.

New look of business

At Seven Hills, which Jordan described as essentially a holding company for its 17 nonprofit affiliates, his role was to analyze and diagnose companies, he said. That is what he aims to do at Clark in his interim role, which he said will last at least a year.

“My job is very focused and very targeted. It’s how do we find, refocus and reconnect this business school, and how do we enlarge it,” he said.

The next steps are to enact those changes, he said.

“We have done the diagnostic work, now we are into treatment,” Jordan said.

What that treatment will look like is assessing how business education should be approached.

It’s not unheard of, but it is a rarity for a liberal arts college to host an undergraduate business school. It's to the business students’ benefit, however, said Jordan, allowing them to learn hard business skills coupled with liberal arts thinking.

At Seven Hills, Jordan coupled business thinking with human services, something essential to have longevity, said Kathleen Jordan.

“That business lens is critical to ensuring long-term sustainability for a nonprofit,” she said. “You have to run a solid business in order to do great nonprofit work.”

Though that business mindset is essential to the health of a company or nonprofit, David Jordan said he wants to build upon what is traditionally thought of as business school, and what the goals for educating business students should be.

Business students need to think more about contributing to the overall health of society, he said.

Curriculum changes to the Clark School of Management will expand on the need of the business world to contribute to the betterment of society, but also focus on preparing students for careers to focus more on technology, said Royo.

Jordan’s track record of success suggests he is well poised to help the university do that.

“He has a social entrepreneurship frame of mind,” said Kathleen Jordan.

Building a state-of-the-art business school

Big on the agenda for David Jordan and the School of Management is finding or creating a new space for the department, he said. Modernizing the infrastructure of the school, currently in an 1800s build, is a necessity, he said.

“We need a new physical SOM,” Jordan said.

To draw top-notch faculty and students, that’s what the school needs to do, Jordan said.

“It’s in keeping with our peers. We want to be not competing, but leading,” he said.

PHOTO | Courtesy of Clark University
Sebastián Royo, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Clark University

A priority across the university is assessing facilities and working to better pose them to attract broadly, Royo said. University officials are spending the next months assessing needs, and Royo said they hope to have a plan before the end of the calendar year, with the long-term goal to be creating a state-of-the-art building for SOM.

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