Gary Hochberg: Undergraduate Dean for a quarter of a century

Gary Hochberg’s mild manner, friendly welcome, and sincere interest in each and every one of his students is legendary at Olin. He joined the faculty in 1982 and served as Assistant Dean, then Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, for 25 years. “Gary is responsible, more than anyone, for the fact that Olin now has one of the highest-quality undergraduate programs in the country,” said Dean Emeritus Bob Virgil of Hochberg’s tenure.

When Virgil hired Hochberg for the newly created position of Assistant Dean for the Undergraduate Program, MBA programs attracted most of the attention and applications at business schools. “Interest in the Undergraduate Program lagged behind the MBA Program in the 1960s and ’70s,” said Virgil. “When interest in undergraduate studies began to grow again in the early ’80s, we conducted a nationwide search for an individual who could revitalize the program. Gary fit the bill perfectly.”

At the time, Hochberg taught philosophy at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. His attention turned toward university administration, however, while teaching courses in accounting and business ethics. When he arrived at Olin, the BSBA Program attracted only around 400 freshman applicants, and only one student enrolled from outside the United States.

Today, the program receives nearly 4,000 freshman applications from students in the United States and around the world.

Providing students with opportunities abroad was foremost on Hochberg’s agenda. “Between my undergraduate and graduate years, I studied for a year in Germany, and it was an incredibly important experience,” he says. “Study abroad teaches students how to deal with cultural differences, which makes them flexible and adaptable to new situations.” Hochberg was instrumental in establishing Olin’s first study abroad opportunities.

Over the years, Hochberg urged Olin students to take interesting elective classes and to get involved in extracurricular activities on and off campus. He advised them to make connections through student clubs and to perform hands-on service work in the St. Louis community—all to enrich their college experience.

“Nothing is more important to Gary than the education and success of his students,” says Dean Emeritus Mahendra Gupta. “Over his 25 years as Associate Dean of our BSBA Program, he connected with every student and their parents on a personal level. No wonder his students love him and continue to do so as alums.”

Gary Hochberg with Dean Emeritus Bob Virgil in 1988.

Gary Hochberg with Dean Emeritus Bob Virgil in 1988.

In 2007, Hochberg announced he was ready for a new challenge. He became the Director of two Specialized Masters Programs that he helped develop: the Master of Science in Finance (MSF) and the Master of Accounting (MACC). The programs proved so successful, more were soon introduced, including the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management (MSSCM) in 2009 and the Master of Science in Customer Analytics (MSCA) in 2012. Additionally, the Master of Science in Finance program has expanded to three different tracks—Corporate/Investments, Quantitative, and Wealth Asset Management.

“Enrollment was beyond our wildest expectations,” recalled Hochberg of the early years of the program. “The students were outstanding and committed to their areas of study, so they were a delight to work with.” Specialized Masters Program applications remain strong and steady at nearly 3,000 annually.

Hochberg announced his retirement in 2012, but Dean Gupta wouldn’t fully accept it. He asked Hochberg to serve as the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and provide leadership for the new Global MSF Program. The Global MSF program partners with business schools in Singapore, Korea, Herzliya, Spain, and Germany to offer a dual degree/certificate opportunity on two campuses for students pursuing careers in international finance.

“I owe a special debt to Mahendra for having been so ingenious in finding new and different ways for me to be of service to the School after stepping down from my role in the Undergraduate Program,” said Hochberg during his real retirement in 2014. At a reception with many colleagues, former students, and friends from his three-plus decades at WashU, Hochberg took the stage with his guitar and played some of his favorite folk tunes as a memorable way to say so long.

Hochberg dished out some tough love over the years to his own children and to Olin students. They confess, however, to being better people because of his watchfulness. As former student Trina (Williams) Shanks (BSBA ’92, MSW ’00, PhD ’03) said, “Whether I was starting my undergraduate career as a freshman or finishing my PhD, Gary always asked what I planned to do next and challenged me to dream big. He never forgot that a university is first and foremost about educating students and preparing them for excellence.” Shanks was a 1996 Rhodes Scholar and is now an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan.

“It’s been an incredible privilege to work at such an extraordinary place for such a long period of time,” says Hochberg. “I’m glad to have known so many bright, hard-working, and appreciative students over the years. I now count many of them among my dearest friends.”

Portions of this article were originally published in Washington Magazine, 2009.

Photos courtesy of WashU Archives.

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