Dean Sorensen to retire next year

Pamplin Dean Richard E. Sorensen will retire in July 2013 after serving the college for 31 years.

Active leadership spanning four decades

Before being appointed dean and professor of management science (now business information technology) at Virginia Tech in July 1982, Sorensen led Appalachian State University’s business school for nine years; thus, he will have been a dean for 40 years.

Under his leadership, the Pamplin College expanded student enrollments and academic programs; developed new international, leadership, ethics, and diversity programs; created new advising and career services for students and outreach services for businesses; and completed two major fundraising campaigns that exceeded their goals.

Sorensen’s first decade at Virginia Tech was highlighted by fundraising success — in particular, a landmark $10 million gift from the Robert B. Pamplin family that resulted in the renaming of the college in 1986 — and building construction and renovation. An addition to Pamplin Hall opened in the fall of 1987; renovations to the original building were completed in the fall of 1988.

To improve the process for seeking feedback and guidance from alumni and friends, Sorensen restructured the Pamplin Advisory Council, a group that has since grown to 75 members who meet regularly to discuss the college’s progress and future initiatives.

His second decade at Pamplin saw the development or expansion of outreach services to businesses through management and professional development programs and the Business Technology Center. The college made a formal commitment to diversity by adopting a statement, “Diversity as a Core Value.”

The college expanded its international programs to give large numbers of students the opportunity for experience abroad and overhauled its MBA program, changing admission requirements, courses, and scheduling to strengthen the program’s quality and reputation.

In partnership with other Virginia Tech colleges, Pamplin launched a master’s degree in information technology, which has become a nationally recognized online program, taught by Pamplin and engineering faculty.

In his third decade, Sorensen oversaw the development of several initiatives: an executive MBA program in 2004, a business diversity center and minor for undergraduates in 2006, and, in 2008, a post-doctoral bridge-to-business program that was among the first such programs approved by AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) International, the accrediting organization for business schools worldwide.

Sorensen has not only led the college’s successful fundraising efforts through the years — more than $85 million was raised during the last campaign — but has been a generous donor, with more than $210,000 contributed toward scholarships and fellowships to benefit Pamplin students and faculty.

On top of his administrative duties, he has taught the Introduction to Business course every year.

Notable among his numerous leadership roles across the university are his activities with the Virginia Tech Center for Leadership Studies, which Sorensen has served since 1998 as founding director, and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, which he also helped establish.

He chaired the university advisory committee on security and infrastructure that reviewed more than 400 different recommendations regarding the April 16 tragedy.

Outside the college and the university, Sorensen has been extensively involved in many organizations, notably AACSB. He chaired its board and many of the organization’s committees as well as a working group that sought ways to reduce the worldwide shortage of business doctoral faculty. He currently co-chairs AACSB’s blue ribbon committee on accreditation quality and serves on its bridge program advisory committee.

Sorensen has served as an unpaid consultant to business schools at the so-called HBCUs — historically black colleges and universities — assisting several of them with their initial accreditation or reaccreditation efforts.

He has served on the Government Accountability Office educators’ advisory panel since 2007 and on several state commissions related to regional economic development. He has been a consultant to several companies. He chaired the board of directors of Plastic Packaging Inc. and was a director of Brad Ragan Inc.

Sorensen earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now Polytechnic University), and an MBA and a Ph.D. in management at the New York University Stern Graduate School of Business. He began his career at the New York Telephone Company (now Verizon) and served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

Citing Sorensen’s “outstanding tenure and sustained leadership” in a letter to the dean last spring following his five-year periodic review, Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee said he joined the review committee in commending Sorensen for his “hard work leading the college” in the face of “many resource challenges” and for “embarking on innovative ideas.”

The review committee, comprising seven faculty members and a staff member from Pamplin, as well as a dean and a faculty member from other colleges on campus, sought views from Pamplin faculty, staff, and administrators.

Its report, McNamee said, praised Sorensen’s integrity, dedicated goal setting and accomplishment, “active, positive leadership” in diversity, and “outstanding service to the university and college.” The committee noted that Sorensen is regarded by his peers as “someone who represents the college well to external constituencies,” said McNamee, who also lauded the dean’s commitment to “initiatives that further bolster the reputation and success of the university.”

In a meeting with Pamplin faculty and staff last fall, McNamee thanked Sorensen for providing the university unusually early notice of his retirement — this, he said, greatly facilitated the planning for an orderly transition of leadership, including reviewing or developing the strategic vision and goals for the college’s future.

McNamee said the quest for Sorensen’s successor will begin this summer with his appointment of a committee that he will chair. The search committee is expected to comprise 10-15 members, including Pamplin faculty and staff, a college dean, a vice president, and senior university faculty.

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