Gary Hochberg, Director, Specialized Master’s Programs, Olin Business School

He Builds Programs, and They Come

by Lisa Cary

“Gary is responsible, more than anyone, for the fact that Olin now has one of the highest-quality undergraduate programs in the country,” says Robert Virgil, former business school dean.

For 25 years, Gary Hochberg supported and encouraged Olin Business School undergraduates. He maintained contact with them through the admission process until they were ready to graduate and leave the University “nest” for new challenges. Two years ago, Hochberg himself “graduated and left his post” for a fresh challenge.

After serving as assistant dean, then associate dean, for Olin’s undergraduate program since 1982, Hochberg announced in 2007 that he was ready to move into a different role at the School. He now directs three specialized master’s programs that he helped develop in recent years: Master of Science in Finance (MSF); Master of Accounting (MACC); and—beginning this year—Master of Science in Supply Chain Management (MS/SCM).

“It’s a bit like running start-up businesses—hectic, but lots of fun,” says Hochberg. “I’m responsible for curriculum development, student recruitment, and all of the services needed to help students make their way through the programs.”

The Master of Science in Finance program, developed in 2005, illustrates Olin’s responsiveness to students’ needs. The program provides a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum that prepares students for financial careers in just 10 months—half the time it takes to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

“Enrollment is beyond our wildest expectations,” says Hochberg. “The students are outstanding and committed to their areas of study, so they are a delight to work with.”

Hochberg relishes the chance to use his entrepreneurial abilities as director of these new programs. It’s not unlike the challenge he faced in 1982 when then-dean Robert L. Virgil, MBA ’60, DBA ’67, JD ’09 (honorary), now dean emeritus of Olin Business School and trustee emeritus of Washington University, hired him for the newly created position of assistant dean for the undergraduate program.

“Interest in the undergraduate program lagged behind the MBA program in the 1960s and ’70s,” says 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. Only one student enrolled from outside the United States. Today, the program receives almost 3,000 freshman applications from students here and around the world.

Hochberg quickly credits the three deans under whom he served for his success in building the program: Robert Virgil (until 1993); Stuart Greenbaum (1993–2005); and Mahendra Gupta, current dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management.

“Gary’s imprint is on every facet of the program today,” says Virgil, crediting Hochberg instead. “He is responsible, more than anyone, for the fact that Olin now has one of the highest-quality undergraduate programs in the country.”

The program Hochberg built is distinctive among business schools. Undergraduates are able to customize their course work by integrating their business studies with non-business classes (many earn minors or majors in other disciplines) and a wide variety of opportunities outside the classroom. Students receive academic advising and career counseling jointly, so they learn early on how to tailor their educational experience to their interests, strengths, and eventual careers.

“Gary embodies the best of Washington University. He connected our business program and its students to every part of the University and to opportunities beyond the campus,” says John Berg, associate vice chancellor of undergraduate admissions.

Providing students with opportunities abroad was foremost on Hochberg’s agenda when he arrived at Olin. Unfortunately, at the time there were no study-abroad programs for business undergraduates. “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.”

Today, thanks to Hochberg and other members of the Olin team, undergraduates can choose from a variety of study-abroad programs, including international internships in London; Paris; and Koblenz, Germany. Students also can attend universities in Hong Kong; Melbourne and Queensland, Australia; and Madrid on academic exchanges. Approximately one-third of Olin undergraduates now take advantage of these programs.

Over the years, Hochberg also 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 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.”

One reason Hochberg feels so comfortable around young adults is because he and his wife, June, raised three of their own: Mark, Amy, and Aaron. All are serious musicians who love to “jam” with their dad, an avid folk musician. June, an elementary school teacher, now serves as a parent educator with St. Louis’ Parents as Teachers program.

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, relates: “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.”

Lisa Cary is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.