Oral History Collection


Ronald FRANK

Publication Type


Date of Interview



Patricia Meyer


Singapore Management University, SMU, Ronald Frank, history, university founding, beginnings, university administration, university admissions, university president, Bukit Timah campus, university campus, faculty recruitment, faculty hiring, university admissions, marketing, university curriculum, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, School of Information Systems, Steve Miller, college teaching, case method, pedagogy, classroom design, small class size, seminar style teaching, student development, non-passive learning, creative thinking, decision making skills, confident graduates, philantrophy, endowment, autonomous university, personnel management, performance-based pay, salaries, administrative staff, dean searches, gold standard of appointment, successful experiment, quality of graduates, Tony Tan, American-style education


The interview covered: first involvement with SMU, President of SMU, Bukit Timah campus, roles and responsibilities, faculty recruitment, advertising campaigns, student feedback, autonomous universities, strategy, law school, higher education landscape, impact.


President, SMU, 2001–2004

Board of Trustees, SMU, 2000–2001

Professor Ronald E Frank, or Ron as he affectionately known, joined SMU’s board of trustees in 2000 and assumed his role as SMU’s second president in September 2001. His presidency was a time of rapid growth for the young university. SMU had just admitted its second cohort of undergraduate students in August 2001. During his time as president two schools were added, the School of Economics and Social Sciences, and the School of Information Systems. New hiring and admissions resulted in nearly a tripling of the number of faculty and students at the university, and the first class of students graduated during his tenure.

Professor Frank was involved in planning the university’s new city campus which opened in 2005. During his presidency, SMU received two significant gifts. The donation by the global entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr Li Ka Shing, endowed the new library at the city campus and provided scholarships for students from Hong Kong and China. The Lee Foundation’s gift of $50 million, matched threefold by the Singapore Government, was then the largest contribution ever made to a Singaporean tertiary institution and led to the naming of the business school in honour of the late Dr Lee Kong Chian. After stepping down from the presidency, Professor Frank served on an advisory panel for SMU’s senior leadership for several years.

Professor Frank has taught at Northwestern, Harvard, and Stanford Universities, and at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the US. During his two decades at Wharton he served as director of research and PhD programmes and vice dean. In 1984 he became dean of Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, and then served as dean of the business school at Emory University from 1989 to 1998. While at Emory he focused on increasing the ranking of the business school and building the school’s endowment. Prof Frank is dean emeritus and Asa Griggs Candler professor of marketing emeritus of Emory University's Roberto C Goizueta Business School. He has been a prolific writer of marketing articles, books and journals, and for over a decade was the fourth most-cited author in marketing.

He earned his master’s degree in business at Northwestern University (USA) and his PhD in marketing from the University of Chicago (USA).


Asian Studies | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration

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This is an abridged version of the original interview. Please contact Li Ka Shing Library at libIR@smu.edu.sg for access to the full version of the transcript and/or audio recording.

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