Brent Hathaway views his deanship of the Lee Business School as an opportunity to "do the harder right."
Hathaway, who joined UNLV Oct. 1, coined the term to describe his guiding principle of integrity and compassionate leadership. His handling of a workplace tragedy years ago underscores his belief.
While he was president and general manager at Concord, Inc., an employee died on the job. With 300 employees under his charge, he could have enlisted someone else to deliver the news to the man's family. Instead Hathaway personally informed them of the loss.
"I felt accountable. I had gotten to know him. He wasn't just a name or faceless person," he said. "I felt I had to do it. That's the responsibility I feel to those I lead."
He brings the same resolve to the Lee Business School. "I have an awesome responsibility to our 4,000 students and nearly 90 faculty and staff," said Hathaway, who in addition to being dean, is the Ted and Doris Lee Professor of Business.
He's hopeful that choosing the harder, sometimes less popular, path will help create a bold vision for the school; energize its students, faculty and staff; and garner support in the business community for that vision.
The $15 million gift from the Lee family, for whom the former College of Business was renamed in 2011, will help in the transformation. The gift will add 10 endowed professorships, create the Lee Thought Leader Lecture series, and fund scholarships and other program enhancements.
Lee Business is the only accredited business school in Southern Nevada and its students are garnering national and international recognition, Hathaway said. He points to the student team that won the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge Americas competition--the best among 350 teams from North, Central, and South America--and finished second in the world in the Global Finals this spring.
"Our best students are as good as any I've seen at the elite institutions I've visited," he said. "Some of our best students are the best on the globe."
He plans to build on the school's foundation by crafting a strategic plan to guide priorities for the future. He stresses it won't be his plan, but one in which all Lee Business stakeholders have some input. On the job just two months, he's already begun meeting with key groups of students, faculty and staff, alumni, and business leaders.
"Their participation shows me a lot of people are interested in the success of the Lee Business School," he said.
New, But Not Really
Hathaway's arrival in Las Vegas is a homecoming of sorts. He spent his first 10 years here before his family moved to Shelley, Idaho, a small farming community of less than 2,000.
He studied agricultural economics at Utah State and began his career in business. He served in several executive positions including vice president of marketing and sales for aerospace services at Honeywell International and director of marketing for agricultural equipment at Case Corp.
Along the way he earned two graduate degrees -- a master's in agricultural economics from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Illinois. By the time he completed his doctorate, he and his wife, Tammy, had four children: Stephanie, Danielle, Alayna, and Tylor.
Hathaway transitioned into academia seeking greater personal fulfillment. He joined the University of Wyoming as chair of the management and marketing department. He went on to serve as interim dean and then dean for nine years. He co-founded the Wyoming Business Leadership Institute, created an online executive MBA program and college-based career center, and enhanced graduate programs with an emphasis on energy and sustainability. He also raised more than $50 million for facility upgrades.
After a successful tenure at Wyoming, it was time for a change, he said. "We had some bold goals, and we'd accomplished them. I felt it was the right time to find new goals," he said. "I want to apply my skills here and try to achieve similar success."
A blended background in academia and business gives him insight into the needs of the business community, he said.
"I have a sense of how programs may need to be refreshed to remain relevant and rigorous," he said. "I think people in the business community know I speak their language, and we can talk about how the business school can meet their needs."
Hathaway isn't all business. He unwinds by spending time with his wife and staying in touch with his adult children and four grandchildren in Wyoming. The sports enthusiast loves the gridiron, golf, and horses.
"I plan to attend the National Finals Rodeo," he said.