BTB Brown

Jeff Brown, dean of the University of Illinois Gies College of Business, poses in atrium of the college's facility on campus.

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The no-doubt-about-it highlight of JEFF BROWN’s four-and-a-half years running the show at the Gies College of Business?

‘Easy — when I introduced Larry and Beth Gies on the day we announced the naming of our College in October 2017.’

With the new name came a game-changing gift of $150 million from the Chicago couple — marking the largest donation in campus history and sparking a marketing blitz like no other, from buses and billboards to the backdrop of Lovie Smith’s press conferences.

It’s been a fun run for the dean, hired by the UI as a finance professor in 2002 after stints on the faculty at Harvard and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

With UI students still on break, the outdoorsy Brown took time out to answer a few questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the sixth installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting local leaders of organizations big and small.

I can’t live without ... knowing that there are still beautiful mountains to be hiked.

I’m frugal in that ... I sometimes take my own snacks to the movie theater.

The last luxury I indulged in was ... going backpacking in the Peruvian Andes with my older brother in June 2019 — if you call sleeping in a tent at high altitude and hiking all day a ‘luxury,’ which I do.

My philosophy on meetings is ... never meet just for the sake of meeting. Have a clear purpose.

Being a leader is ... a privilege and joy. But, admittedly, it can be hard to make time to take care of oneself.

My business role model is ... Jim Poterba. He is CEO and President of the National Bureau of Economic Research and professor of economics at MIT. He was also my Ph.D. dissertation advisor, a frequent co-author and a good friend. I admire his combination of intellectual brilliance and his genuine caring for others.

My one unbreakable rule for employees is ... treat our amazing staff with respect.

The most beneficial college class I took was ... my introductory microeconomics course with Professor Dennis Sullivan at Miami University in Ohio in summer 1987. The course changed my life in that he inspired me to become an economics major and go on to earn my Ph.D. in the field.

I’m up and at ’em every day by ... 5:30 a.m. to exercise.

When it comes to my exercise routine ... after a pretty major bike accident in 2018, I treated myself to a Peloton. I try — with mixed success — to use it most days for 20 to 30 minutes.

The worst job I ever had was ... winter 1978. I was a 10 year-old kid with a paper route during the Blizzard of ’78 in southwest Ohio. It was incredibly cold and the snow drifts were taller than me.

The next big thing in my line of work is ... Gies Business leading a revolution in graduate business education through high-quality, engaging, immersive online degree programs. Look for us to continue to innovate.