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VCU School of Business Dean Ed Grier, right, and then-Richmond Symphony music director Steven Smith at the Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts in 2019 [View Image] VCU School of Business Dean Ed Grier, right, and then-Richmond Symphony music director Steven Smith at the Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts in 2019. After a decade at VCU, Grier is leaving the university to become dean of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. (Skip Rowland Photography, courtesy VCU School of Business)

Ed Grier is leaving VCU, but his legacy remains

As dean of the School of Business, he launched partnerships and programs, including the online M.B.A., that “are recognized nationally as among the best in the nation.”

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As dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business since 2010, Ed Grier has made a lasting impact. From day one, Grier knew that in order to give his students an advantage in the workforce, they needed to be able to originate fresh ideas and creative solutions.

Under Grier, the School of Business in 2016 launched its EPIC strategic plan, which called for driving the future of business through the power of creativity. Creativity and collaboration have been key to the plan. Annual artists-in-residence, such as the Richmond Symphony and artist Noah Scalin, creativity czars and guest lecturers have brought creativity into the classroom. 

“In this era of increasing complexity, businesses and professionals continually need to reinvent,” Grier said when the plan launched. “Leaders in every industry realize that the challenges of today and tomorrow won’t be solved through the same approaches that made them successful in the past.” 

Grier also oversaw creation of the International Consulting Program in 2013, the launch of the Master of Decision Analytics Professional Track degree program in 2016 and the school’s online M.B.A. in 2017.

“Programs launched during Dean Grier’s time with the School of Business — in particular the online M.B.A. — are recognized nationally as among the best in the nation,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “His leadership and work to recruit exemplary educators ensures that our students receive a world-class education and are successful after graduation from VCU.”

Grier was the “students’ dean,” said Tom Snead, chairman of the board of the VCU School of Business Foundation. 

“He never turned down visiting with the student who wanted to visit with him,” Snead said. “He was a very approachable dean, not only by the students but by everybody around him. He also has built an incredible staff for the business school. I would say second to none. 

“All of that served him well in this position because he was training young people who are going to go out and represent the university well, and be well-equipped with the skills necessary for a career. Just talking about it makes me proud.”Ed Grier, middle, and School of Business faculty and staff sit in on a Richmond Symphony rehearsal of Beethoven’s fifth concerto. [View Image] Grier, middle, and School of Business faculty and staff sit in on a Richmond Symphony rehearsal of Beethoven’s fifth concerto. The symphony was the School of Business' artist-in-residence for the 2018-19 academic year. (Skip Rowland Photography, courtesy VCU School of Business)

Grier's accomplishments were many, including record fundraising. During his tenure, he raised more than any previous VCU Business dean — $39 million from 7,735 individuals and companies.  

In 2015, the school launched a partnership with the Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy providing entrepreneurship training programs internationally. To date, over 650 individuals have participated in the workshops, which are offered in six countries.

During Grier’s tenure, two premier VCU graduate programs moved to the School of Business: the Brandcenter at VCU, the preeminent graduate program for developing creative problem-solvers for the world of brands, in 2012; and the VCU Center for Sport Leadership, an internationally ranked program that is preparing the next generation of leaders in the sports industry, in 2018. 

Grier is leaving to become dean at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, effective July 1. “It is an exciting opportunity to help advance a business school positioned between startups and giants in Silicon Valley,” he said. S. Douglas Pugh, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at VCU, has been appointed interim dean of the VCU School of Business. 

Before joining VCU, Grier spent 29 years at the $318 billion, Fortune 500 Walt Disney Co., gaining extensive experience in international operations, union negotiations, brand management, administration, finance and planning, marketing, audits, capital projects and government relations. At VCU, he instantly grasped the potential of collaborating with other schools, such as medicine, arts and engineering.

“Ed Grier has been the best partner I could have hoped for,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Jr. Dean of the VCU College of Engineering and a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “From the moment I arrived at VCU, he has been generous in his support of the College of Engineering's objectives. 

“Together with VCUarts, we have nurtured the da Vinci Center, we have built collaborative programs in entrepreneurship that have enriched our Capstone Design program, and we have supported each other through ups and downs that impact our respective faculty, staff and students. Ed is an innovative leader. His strategic plan, EPIC, is a model for all of us. His sense of humor is infectious. I am sorry to see him go to California. The University of Santa Clara is lucky indeed.” 

Grier also served as interim vice president for development and alumni relations at VCU, participated on the steering committee for the university budget redesign, and chaired several key university leadership search committees.

Gifts can be made to the Dean’s Impact Fund in honor of Grier to provide resources for the next permanent dean to execute their vision.

“It has been an honor to serve the School of Business as dean for the past 11 years,” Grier said. “I will deeply miss the VCU community. We have celebrated many successes together during the past decade. I look forward to watching the School of Business achieve national prominence as it emerges from the wake of COVID.

“I could never have foreseen all that I would experience as a newcomer to VCU, to Richmond and to academia. But being a part of the VCU School of Business has been more than I could have dreamed of, and I will always be a Ram at heart.”

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