Dean Wendy York

Paving the Way for the Next 100 Years

By Nancy Spitler

Dean Wendy York brings a collaborative leadership style to the helm of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Dean Wendy York has been at Clemson for two years — two extremely busy, intense years — getting to know faculty, staff and administrators,  embracing the Clemson culture, learning, and listening. Designing the vision for where the College of Business needs to go and a roadmap to get there. Creating a culture of collaboration and innovation and trust. She tends to talk more about “we” than “I.”

York came to Clemson from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where she reorganized multiple units to bring them into strategic alliance. That experience, along with more than 20 years in for-profit and nonprofit organizations, starting and selling her own company, and five years as a venture capitalist, prepared her well for taking the helm at the College of Business.

“What we’ve done in the last two years as a team is set a vision for where the college needs to go,” she says, “to make sure our students are business ready for what the marketplace needs — and to ensure the culture of the College of Business is a collaborative and high-functioning team.”

The transformative $60 million gift from Billy and Ann Powers will help bring that vision to reality. “The opportunity this building — and this gift — represent,” says York, “is to really make a statement: We’re not just about football. Our academics have national credibility.”

The Powerses’ gift is definitely the largest of a number of gifts that have graced the college in the past two years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, York traveled about 50 percent of the time, fundraising and getting the vision out — and working toward raising national attention on the larger University.

“It’s been very gratifying,” York says. “The gifts we have received allow me to invest in the people and programs we need to develop. It gives us the opportunity to reward faculty teaching and researching in those new areas which are so business relevant.”

York and her team are leveraging the strengths of the college to eight Signature Programs: leadership, sales innovation, business analytics, value chain and advanced manufacturing, entrepreneurship, brand marketing and graphics, economics and finance, and the MBA program.

 “The opportunity this building — and this gift — represent,” says York, “is to really make a statement: We’re not just about football. Our academics have national credibility.”

“The Signature Programs are the skill areas that are particularly potent for students in the 21st century. That’s where that vision comes from. It’s driven by common business sense,” York says.

First and foremost, she says, is leadership, and it’s clear this is an area about which she is passionate. “Leadership is a choice, not a title,” York says. “Whatever major our students graduate with, those are important skill sets that will help them get their first job. But regardless of major, the one thing they need to carry with them is a sense of leadership, that is, the sense of obligation to make a positive difference and the confidence to try.”

She pauses. “There’s a way to do that respectfully within a hierarchy. But you don’t have to have the title to be a leader, just the courage and heart to make a difference where you are.”

York’s own leadership style is one that insists on collaboration and trust. Those two things, she believes, lead to innovation. “When you have an environment in which there’s a sense that the rules are fair and everyone has equal access,” she says, “you create more trust, and when you create more trust, you enable people to cooperate and be more innovative.”

Most people, she believes, “just want to be in an environment that gives them the chance to work and succeed. They find out that if everybody works together, the whole boat will rise.” It’s an approach she took at Stanford and the reason she felt comfortable leaving: “I built a very strong team that knew how to work collaboratively.”

She’s seeing the dividends of that approach at Clemson: “We have department chairs and faculty and staff gathered around a new vision. They are finding ways they can support that, and they are reaping the rewards of the generous alumni support of those programs.”

Leaving Stanford wasn’t in York’s immediate plans. But the opportunity at Clemson was intriguing and inviting, and it keyed into something very basic to her personality: the chance to make a difference. “I was convinced by the provost that I could run my college and by the president that I could make a difference for this whole University by leading this one particular college — the College of Business is on the ascent.”

The gift from Billy and Ann Powers is transformative for the college and speeds that ascent. “This gift will ensure that long after the building is opened and I’m no longer dean, there’ll be a legacy of investment that will continue to make that curriculum cutting edge,” says York. “The gift and the building are really paving the way for the next 100 years of the University.

“I  am honored to  get us kicked off with a vision based on servant leadership and the courage to be constantly innovating. I feel blessed to be at this place right now.”

Named and Endowed Chairs and Professorships

Mary Anne Raymond
Thomas F. Chapman ’65 Distinguished Professorship in Leadership

 Lyudmila Chernykh
Wells Fargo Professorship of Banking

John C. Alexander Jr.
Thomas C. and Anne Townsend Breazeale Endowed Professorship in Investments

Thomas W. Hazlett
Hugh Macaulay Endowed Chair in Economics

Doug Irwin
Harris Family Professorship in Economics

Paul Wilson
Wilson Newman Professorship

William J. Kettinger
William S. Lee Distinguished Professorship in Management

Chad Navis
Arthur M. Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership

Aleda Roth
Burlington Industries Professor of Supply Chain Management

Zeki Simsek
Professor, Gressette Chair of Business Strategy and Planning