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Manaster leaves legacy at CU

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — His tenure was marked by the establishment of the Center for Business Education, the Japha Symposium on Business Ethics and the Leeds Summit Award for Social Impact. And, oh yeah, the biggest single endowment in the history of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Steve Manaster stepped down Wednesday after five years as dean of the Leeds School of Business. He’ll remain on the school’s faculty.

“I think first of all, Steve had a vision for driving the school forward and making it a top-quality business school,” said Michael Leeds, whose family endowed $35 million to the school in 2001. “I think he moved the school along in huge steps.”

Speaking by telephone from his Long Island, N.Y., home, Leeds recalls how upon meeting Manaster, he felt the two were “kindred spirits.” The Leeds gift was the seventh-largest ever to a university business school in the nation.

“The financial infrastructure for the school is something I was brought in to work on, you might say,” Manaster said recently, sitting in his now-former office. “I think our fund-raising success is based on having a story to tell.”

He recalled traveling to Long Island about eight times over the course of two years, working out details of the Leeds endowment.

“They really had in mind (the impact) that business has on the community,” Manaster said. “Acting ethically, communicating effectively, socially responsible advertising, seeking diversity prominently — all of these things were very attractive to the Leeds family.”

Manaster started the business school’s Center for Business Education in 2000, a year after he came to the university.

The center’s programs include the CU Business Intensive Certificate, Colorado Executive Development in Residence, Executive MBA programs and “50 for Colorado,” which highlights prominent Colorado industries.

“Those operations are into seven-figure revenues that both serve the community and allow us to raise revenue for the school,” Manaster said.

Around the same time, the Center for Business and Society was formed to provide students with a “broader approach to business education.”

Or as Manaster puts it, “education with a more societal view, rather than simply a bottom-line point of view.”

The approach predated the corporate scandals of the past several years, something Manaster calls “prescient.”

“I think (his ideas) dovetailed with ideas I had and we had in our business,” said Leeds, whose family made its fortune with CMP Media, a high-tech publishing company they sold in 1999, shortly after it went public.

“I think Steve has a lot of vision, and he has the willingness to persevere and push people along and pull people along and also get a lot of people involved from outside the business school,” Leeds said. “Steve’s willing to accept that everybody’s not going to agree, but he still demanded motion forward.”

Manaster said one of the things the Leeds endowment allowed him to do was to hire faculty away from other top-notch universities.

Having a more solid financial base, he said, allowed CU to “raid schools that used to raid us,” adding, “Following the Leeds gift, I don’t think we’ve had successful raids on our faculty.”

Aside from an improved faculty, Manaster said the quality of students in the CU business school is also on the rise.

That comes from being nationally recognized, he said.

The school’s doctoral entrepreneurship program is ranked No. 1 in the country by the U.S. Association of Small Business & Entrepreneurship. The MBA program is ranked 51st in the nation by Forbes magazine. And the business school’s faculty is ranked 38th in the country in the Academy of Management Journal.

All of this despite a relative lack of resources compared with other state universities.

“The rules for governance in Colorado ... really put us at a disadvantage with some of these other schools,” Manaster said, referring to laws such as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that restrict growth in government spending. “Comparable schools have roughly double our budget.”

That only underscores the value of the Leeds gift.

It will help pay for the renovation and expansion to the Business School’s facilities, a project that interim Dean Stephen Lawrence will oversee.

“We are in queue to build an addition to our building and renovate the old building, and hopefully that’s going to happen in the next two years,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence, who was acting as interim dean when Manaster was hired, said he has no interest in pursuing the position himself, but he’ll serve the university until a new dean is hired, probably in about a year.

Lawrence also will help to finalize the business school’s strategic plan, which “hasn’t had major revisions for almost 10 years,” he said.

For his part, Manaster is looking forward to traveling a lot less as a faculty member and resuming some research projects he put on hold when he became dean.

And he’ll spend more time with his wife, who was recruited by the university at the same time he was. She’s a vice-chairwoman of the radiology department at the CU Health Sciences Center.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.