If your MBA goal is to be an FT500 CEO, Vanderbilt ranks No. 9 (thanks to personal scale)


David Farr, MBA’81, speaking to Owen students during the Distinguished Speaker Series.

The arrival of spring means the arrival of a fresh round of business school rankings and lists. The Owen School received some great news this year, rising five spots to No. 22 on the influential U.S. News & World Report ranking, our highest ranking ever on their list. Rankings such as these vary from year to year, so it’s hard to put too much weight on any given ranking in any given year. In fact, another list published this year is an even better demonstration of the true value of the Owen education.

Top 10 schools with alumni serving as CEOs of FT500 companies.

Top 10 schools with alumni serving as CEOs of FT500 companies.

Financial Times published a ranking of business schools by number of CEOs of FT500 companies. Vanderbilt’s MBAs came in at No. 9 on this list with three CEOs despite a graduate B-school base of only 9,000 alumni. Or maybe it’s because of it. The truth is that our alumni are active and very supportive of one another. The value of our education shows in:

  • The faculty’s ability to draw out the best of the student experience and teach highly relevant material to small classes, where they call on students by name and demand a lot.
  • Quality peers push one another as students and alumni so they can run with their education to be effective but never cutthroat leaders, the types who can get people behind their ideas.

That value leads to great ROI, and the Financial Times list is compelling for all the schools that make the rank despite the odds not being in their favor due to sheer class size or age of school. A young B school (not yet 50 years old, compared to 108-year-old Harvard) of deliberately small enrollment, Vanderbilt has produced 170 MBA and 55 EMBA students per year since our enrollment hit that stride by the mid-1980s. With our newer one year MS programs, we only have 340 graduates per year across all programs. That’s not a lot of students, but personal scale has its advantages. Here are our three Fortune CEOs and something about each that makes us not at all surprised by their successes:

  • David Farr: Vanderbilt MBA’81, became chief executive of Emerson Electric in 2000. He started a consistent pattern of bringing in trusted alumni, who shared his vision and business training, to help run key pieces of the business.
  • Doug Parker: Vanderbilt MBA’86, became chief executive of American Airlines in 2013. He never stopped moving; energy off the charts.
  • Martin Craighead: Vanderbilt MBA’98, became chief executive of Baker Hughes in 2012. His modest and deliberate nature won the respect of his class peers.

In another great demonstration of the Owen School’s tight-knit community, David Farr took time from his busy schedule to talk to students as a part of the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series. You can see Dean Johnson interview him during his visit here.


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