From Classroom to Boardroom: The Faculty Influence Behind the Chair of Faculty Forward
By David Buie-Moltz
At the heart of every Darden success story is the indelible mark of its faculty. Adair B. Newhall’s (MBA ’09) journey from Darden’s classrooms to his pivotal role as a partner at StepStone Group attests to this influence. As he assumes the chair of Faculty Forward, Milestone II of the Powered by Purpose campaign, we delve into his Darden experiences and the mentors who steered his path.
Who are the faculty members who influenced you during your time at Darden?
I have three. First, Ed Freeman was instrumental in expanding my thought process. He taught me not just ethics but also how to communicate effectively and precisely. Second, the late Susan Chaplinsky was immensely supportive outside of class. Her mix of humor, deep analysis and Midwestern sensibilities made her stand out. Lastly, Brandt Allen had a significant impact on me. Even though I didn’t aim to become an accounting professional, his encouragement and our personal relationship meant a lot.
What motivated you to take on the chair role for Faculty Forward?
The quality of the people at Darden influenced my decision. I’ve had positive interactions with key figures like Jim Cooper (MBA ’84), chair of Milestone I, and Dean Beardsley. My passion for teamwork, which I nurtured during my time playing baseball in college, makes me value collaboration and collective achievements.
What does it signify for Darden to reach the $400 million Milestone I goal ahead of schedule?
The campaign’s success underscores the strength of our leadership. Despite initial doubts about achieving our goal within the set timeline, we trusted the process, realizing that many care deeply about our community. They simply needed the right engagement approach. In the startup world, leaders set seemingly impossible tasks, providing regular feedback and KPIs. They guide you step by step through these challenges. Similarly, this campaign’s success is a result of such leadership. Though we might not foresee every detail, I’m confident we can achieve even greater goals in the future.
Why focus on faculty for Milestone II?
The caliber and dedication of our faculty are what truly distinguish Darden from other business schools. At UVA, not only did I receive a top-notch education, but I also felt empowered. I organized a venture summit while managing my coursework, and throughout, I experienced unwavering support and invaluable training from my professors. Recognizing that I’ve benefited from those who came before me, I now feel it’s my turn to give back and play my part in advancing our community’s mission.
How did your experience at Darden influence your career journey?
My career ambitions were bifurcated: I aspired to either be a Major League Baseball player or become a venture capitalist. The latter prevailed. Every career move I made was deliberate, from investment banking in San Francisco, joining startups in life sciences, attending Darden for my MBA, engaging in company creation in San Diego in the healthcare sector to my tenure at Greenspring Associates and now the StepStone Group.
Venture capital, for me, is not just about financing but fostering lasting relationships that can span generations but are fragile enough to be broken in one exchange. My family’s venture capital legacy dates back to the 1950s, and I’m passionate about furthering that legacy by generating goodwill and paying things forward.
Being a part of Darden has its unique benefits. It immerses me in research and exposes me to the next wave of talent. The energy and innovation I witness among the students are invigorating. I relish the opportunity to mentor and guide those who might be newcomers to the venture capital space, steering them toward successful ventures and startups.
Since you brought up baseball, is there an accomplishment you’re proud of?
During my junior year, I set the state record with 41 RBIs and hit seven home runs. This achievement was notable especially when Mark Teixeira was rising as a baseball star, and we played against his team multiple times a year. However, my record was surpassed within a few years, and it feels like my accomplishment has faded. I’m immensely proud of that time, as I was driven, had wonderful teammates, and a dedicated coach. Success often boils down to team dynamics and culture, which can elevate one’s abilities beyond expectations. In my professional journey, I aim to emulate this experience, being a good teammate, collaborating effectively and delivering consistent results.
Originally featured in the Fall 2023 edition of Pillars magazine, this story is just the beginning. Read more about Faculty Forward, Milestone II of Darden’s Powered by Purpose campaign.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. 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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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia