An End and a Beginning

As business school Dean Gianchetta retires, next leader will assume UM’s first endowed dean’s chair


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Larry Gianchetta has worked at UM’s School of Business Administration for forty-one years.
Larry Gianchetta has worked at UM’s School of Business Administration for forty-one years.

Eric Sprunk ’86, left, and Mark Burnham ’84 jovially shake hands at an event announcing their gifts to UM.

The year was 1975.

The Captain and Tennille’s Love Will Keep Us Together was the top song, Jack Nicholson’s turn as “Mac” McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest earned him his first Oscar, and the University of Montana Grizzlies men’s basketball team nearly knocked off legendary coach John Wooden and his mighty UCLA Bruins in the NCAA Tournament.

Also that year, a fresh-faced assistant professor named Larry Gianchetta arrived on campus for his new gig at the business school.

“I was here to teach everyone’s favorite course: statistics,” Gianchetta says with a laugh.

Now, forty-one years later, Gianchetta, who rose to dean of UM’s School of Business Administration, is calling it a career.

“I loved the culture and the academic composition of this campus then, and I still do now,” he says. “I love having law and pharmacy and fine arts. When I talk to alumni, they obviously give the business school credit for preparing them for their careers, but they also say that why they’re in the seat they’re in is because of a strong liberal arts background. There are more buildings and a lot more programs now, but that culture is still here.”

In 1981 he became chair of the Department of Management and Marketing, and was named dean five years later.

His accomplishments are many, including securing financial support for the William and Rosemary Gallagher Business Building; acquiring a World Trade Center—one of only a handful in the U.S. associated with universities; and creating majors in marketing and management information systems and certificate programs in entertainment management, entrepreneurship, and big data. He also started the American Indian Business Leaders in 1994. Today, that organization has grown nationally and includes seventy-six chapters.

“One of his greatest contributions was cultivating a culture of collegiality,” says longtime marketing Professor Nader Shoostari. “It’s definitely unique. It’s a collaborative environment, and Larry leads that culture by example.”

His replacement will no doubt have big shoes to fill, but thanks to the generosity of two alumni, UM’s first endowed dean’s position will ensure the school has strong leadership well into the future.

Mark Burnham ’84 and Eric Sprunk ’86, together with their families, each made a  $1 million contribution this past winter to create the School of Business Administration’s Endowed Dean’s Chair. Their support enables SoBA to recruit an exceptional candidate to replace Gianchetta. The endowment guarantees that funds to support the next dean’s salary and vision will be available in perpetuity.

“All things flow from the leader of an organization,” says Burnham. “The school has a great reputation, built over the last thirty years with Larry at the helm, and now we need to find the next great leader to move us forward.”

Both men are proven leaders, having built successful careers on the backs of their UM educations. Burnham is the director of finance of Hawthorn Retirement Group LLC, a senior housing company, and managing principal of OZ Cap LLC, an advisory firm. Sprunk, after starting his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, joined Nike in 1993 and has been with the company in various management positions ever since, currently serving as chief operating officer.

“This was a great idea,” Gianchetta says. “The business school will be in good hands for sure.”

Gianchetta and his wife, Deedee—known by many as the “Deaness”—plan on staying in Missoula and remaining active with the campus community.

“But we’ll miss everybody,” Gianchetta says. “This is a special place. We’ve done a lot, but what I’m proudest of is the faculty we’ve assembled. If anybody says I’ve left a legacy here, that’s what I’d wish it to be. I enjoy coming to work each day, and I think most people who work here do, too. To be able to do that for forty-plus years and still feel the same way, I feel fortunate.” 

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