Chicago, That Toddlin’ Town

I am back here for the third time in 2013. The business school deans from the Midwest meet here each year to share success stories, discuss best practices, and tell their latest “you won’t believe this” stories about senior administrators and faculty. Of course, we are normal. This year I was twice introduced as a grizzled dean, the second time immediately prior to a presentation I was giving. I am not sure what’s meant by grizzled, but I don’t think it is good. I went to the restroom after my session to see if I looked grizzled and I think I do. Perhaps the business deans’ version of “Survivor” should make it to cable. I listened to two stories of deans who were voted off their school (i.e. politely fired) by their presidents. Neither had been at their respective school very long, and both had records of doing well. Over the years, I have heard many other stories like these, tales of egos run amok, fights over donor gifts, and efforts to centralize control. The average job length expectancy of a business school dean at any given university is just over four years. I am well beyond the average.

This conference is typically held at the same time as the Chicago Marathon. The weather for this year’s run was nearly perfect. Imagine 45,000 runners and 1,000,000 fans cheering away. It was easy to spot the increase in security this year, yet it was too obtrusive. Chicago did it right. Later in the day I spotted increasing numbers of people limping along and looking as if they had not had such a good time. My sister ran in this event more than a decade ago. It snowed and was extremely cold. I stopped in a small park not too far from our hotel and someone offered me five bucks and a Dr. Pepper for my Maverick UNO sweatshirt. I politely declined. I love big cities–no one in Omaha would even think of making such an offer.

I spent an hour or so at Millennium Park on Sunday, watching people, particularly children, react to Jun Kaneko’s exhibit of Tanukis. It was fun to see kids run from Tanuki to Tanuki laughing and having their pictures taken by happy parents. If my time at the exhibit is representative of days the exhibit has been in place, then there are at least several thousand pictures all over the world of children posing beside a

I am at Midway right now, watching the rain fall and waiting for my ride. I flew into this airport for the first time in 1957, pre-O’Hare days. I traveled between here and LaGuardia a number of times, surviving a lightening strike and an engine failure. Flying sure was fun in those days, with tours of the cockpit and other special treatment for kids. This was a hoppin’ place, the busiest airport in the world for a short period of time.

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