New Professorship Adds to Colley Legacy at UVA Darden
“I’ve always believed that if you do a good job, the recognition will come.”
Those are not just words from Professor John L. Colley Jr., but a mantra. A mantra that he has lived and seen proven true many times over his long career at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Thanks to the generous support of donors who wanted to honor Colley for all he has meant to them and Darden in his 48-year career at the School, the latest recognition for Colley is the establishment of the John L. Colley Jr. Professorship of Business Administration, a chair without term.
“It is a tremendous honor for former students and friends to have done that,” Colley said.
Previously known as the John L. Colley Jr. Research Professorship, the professorship is now fully endowed, ensuring a permanent position for the member of the faculty who holds it. Fittingly, Colley will serve as the first Colley Professor. He plans to hold the professorship for two years, until he completes his 50th year as a full professor at the School, before retiring.
As he looks to the future, Colley has no desire to set expectations for the chair that bears his name. “The process is slim enough that there is a high standard for people to get any kind of professorship. Whenever one of these is awarded, it goes to a very deserving person.”
While he does not want to set expectations, Colley’s actions and accomplishments will.
He has had a profound influence on students, alumni, the Darden School and the University of Virginia over his long and distinguished career. He is author or co-author of 15 books and more than 330 case studies. Colley lives in Pavilion VIII on UVA’s historic Lawn, where he continues to hold seminars with Darden students and UVA undergraduates. He has also had a long career of serving on boards of directors of U.S. corporations as well as councils and committees within the University.
In recent years, he has hosted a special Darden Society event during Reunion Weekend at his home on the Lawn. At the event, he shares his perspectives on the history of the School.
“The School, when I arrived 48 years ago, was surprisingly similar to what it is now,” Colley said. “The goal of the School was to be a general management school. Our message was that if you want to run a business, come to Darden.”
Colley joined the faculty in 1967 in the areas of Quantitative Analysis and Operations. In 1978, he was appointed to the Almand R. Coleman Professorship of Business Administration, which he held for 36 years.
When he was appointed to the chair, Colley began to shift his focus to general management — a bellwether moment for Darden. A general management curriculum was not en vogue at most business schools at the time, but Colley believed that was a mistake and helped create seven general management courses at Darden. With each course, Colley found successful C-level Darden alumni to return to the School and teach the course so that he could move on to creating the next one.
That general management foundation led to Darden securing a reputation and rankings as the provider of the world’s best general management education. “When we began to get those rankings, the faculty at Harvard began calling to ask what we were doing,” Colley said.
All of his good work leads back to the recognition Colley has received.
He was the first Darden faculty member to receive UVA’s Thomas Jefferson Award for service to the University, the University’s highest honor given to members of the University community who have exemplified the principles and ideals of Jefferson. He also has received the University of Virginia Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award, Darden’s Outstanding Faculty Award, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Innovation, the Raven Society’s Raven Award, the IMP Society’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the Z Society’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the Society of the Purple Shadows Gordon F. Rainey Jr. Award for Vigilance to the Student Experience, among many others. Several legacies have been established in his honor, including: The Colley Raven Scholarships, The John L. Colley Jr. Darden Jefferson Fellowship, and the John Colley Award.
Although his retirement is in sight, Colley has more plans to contribute to Darden and to his legacy.
“I would like to write a biography of what I have done and write a lot of my reflections on the past of Darden,” Colley said. “If you take Darden’s first 50 years, we spent the first 20 years building the faculty, facilities and making sure students could get jobs at the highest level, so I’m bullish about the future of the School.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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