Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

A special agent

  • By
  • | 10:00 a.m. August 8, 2014
  • Strategies
  • Growth
  • Share

Robert Beatty has all the right academic credentials to be the new dean of the business school at Florida Gulf Coast University.

His six-page resume includes a doctorate degree in business administration, corporate experience, conference presentations, academic teaching awards and scholarly publications.

But here's something you're not likely to find on another university dean's resume: Beatty was a spy in Afghanistan for six months in 2005, sporting a long beard to blend in as he traveled by car with three other operatives. An expert in counter-intelligence, Beatty began his professional career in the U.S. Air Force, where he spent 13 years as a special agent and commander for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

And that's the extent of what Beatty will share about that experience. For obvious reasons, he declines to share any other information, anecdotes or even photos about his service in Afghanistan.
Anyhow, Beatty would much prefer to discuss his new role as the dean of the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU. Beatty was appointed as the school's dean after a lengthy search that concluded three years after the previous dean, Richard Pegnetter, retired.

Even as temporary deans ran the business school, it earned national recognition when Forbes magazine and others last year highlighted its emphasis on teaching free-market capitalist ideas. For example, every student who majors in economics and finance gets a copy of Ayn Rand's novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” and they take classes on the moral foundations of capitalism.

FGCU is somewhat unique in that professors there don't have tenure, making them more accountable to administrators. “I'm not a fan of tenure,” Beatty says. “Every four years the dean can choose to renew their contract.”

This will make it easier for Beatty to steer the College of Business. “We're not the huge Battleship U.,” he says. “We're that PT boat.”

Still, Beatty is careful not to pronounce his views on what will be the outcome of a review of the business school's programs over the next six months. “We're going to look at everything,” he says. “I'll be out there listening.”

Over time, the business school has broadened its scope beyond the traditional undergraduate and graduate programs. These include the school of resort and hospitality management and eight centers and institutes in diverse fields such as real estate, corporate governance, emerging markets and entrepreneurship. “We can't be everything to everybody,” Beatty cautions. “Our mission is to serve the people of this region.”

Don't expect Beatty's review of the business school to be introspective; he'll be visiting with businesses throughout the region. “Part of my job is to be out there,” he says. “If I hole up here I can't serve the community out there.”

Beatty also warns that students and their parents are more demanding of personalized assistance such as getting internships and job-placement help. In particular, parents are shopping for schools by asking tough questions on class sizes, faculty stability and other insightful queries. “I call them ROI parents,” he says.

Beatty will be equally demanding when it comes to venturing into new fields of study. “We won't go into a new degree program until we've done due diligence,” he says. “We'll do the things we do well.”

At a Glance
Robert Beatty

Age: 52

Family: Wife, Raynette, children Shelby and Sean.

Education: Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Business Administration, Mississippi State University; Master of Computer Systems Management, Creighton University; Bachelor of Arts in computer science, Texas Christian University

Most recent academic position: Dean and professor at William G. Rohrer College of Business at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

Corporate experience: Corporate e-commerce systems manager, Kellogg Co.; project manager, Amerada Hess Corp.

Interests: Travel and collegiate sports

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss


Related Articles

  • May 8, 2015
A hospitable school
  • May 6, 2011
Pursuit of Letters
  • September 2, 2011
Free Market U.
  • February 5, 2016
Stoked on entrepreneurship