Charles H. Whiteman, John and Karen Arnold Dean
Charles H. Whiteman, John and Karen Arnold Dean

When I joined the Penn State Smeal College of Business in 2012, I had no doubt I would be a part of an extraordinary community. It has been a joy to be dean, but, in November, I announced my intention to retire at the end of the academic year.

A colleague recently asked me to share a favorite “Smeal memory,” and many came to mind: Former Nascar driver Jeff Gordon joined us to officially launch a partnership between Axalta and Penn State in 2015 to drive awareness and support for STEM and business education; with travel to Europe and Asia, I became the first Smeal dean to actively engage our alumni living abroad; and while I was a part of many philanthropic conversations in my 12 years, a gift to create the Tarriff Center for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility in 2019 solidified our commitment to developing ethical business leaders.

However, my most memorable experience as dean might be July 31, 2013 — the day I threw out the first pitch at PNC Park before the Pittsburgh Pirates played the St. Louis Cardinals.

Looking for advice ahead of the big day, I emailed two former students who I knew had experience playing baseball. Despite not knowing each other, each told me, emphatically, to “practice!” And each sent a link to the 10 worst first pitches of all time.

I played catch each night with my daughter, a former softball player, and I spent time at the local high school fields with a colleague who once played professional baseball.

I was ready.

As I walked toward the pitcher’s mound, wearing my Penn State windbreaker, a security guard standing along the third base line shouted, “We Are!”

The Pirates’ mascot was behind the plate with the largest baseball mitt I’d ever seen. I managed to get the ball into it. I took away two important lessons: First, practice is essential. Second, Penn Staters are everywhere.

These lessons carried me through my years at Smeal.

During my tenure, we created a business fundamentals certificate for non-business majors; launched stand-alone majors in corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, real estate, and actuarial science; and added more than 30 new programs in professional graduate education.

A variety of experiential learning opportunities enable students to practice what they are learning in the classroom every day. The results have been exceptional: demand for our students and graduates remains high and, with a focus on lifelong learning, we anticipate today’s students and young alumni will turn to Smeal to keep abreast of the latest knowledge and skills.

In retirement, I’ll do some writing, and continue to work with the initial accreditation procedures of the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). I’ll spend time with family and friends, and I’ll plot what comes next.

I’ll certainly be rooting for Smeal’s success. Thanks, as always, for taking this journey with me. I’m grateful to have been a part of it.