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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Yochum to Retire as Dean of College of Business and Public Administration

In Gil Yochum's nearly four decades at Old Dominion University, he has taken on many high-profile roles on a campus that has changed dramatically since 1975. But at heart, Yochum has always considered himself, first and foremost, an academic.

"The fun of being an academic has always been to think up questions and answer them," said Yochum, who will retire July 1 as dean of ODU's College of Business and Public Administration. "And I'm so fortunate to have so many smart and talented colleagues to answer them with."

A recent conversation in Yochum's Constant Hall office quickly became a business college "who's who," as Yochum mentioned dozens of faculty colleagues, the accomplishments of which he is immensely proud.

"I've had some great colleagues that I was fortunate to call friends, as well as professional peers. People like Vinod Agarwal (director of ODU's Economic Forecasting Project), Jim Koch (ODU President Emeritus and Board of Visitors Professor of Economics), John Ford (Eminent Scholar and professor of marketing and international business). There are so many. Old Dominion University has been fortunate, as have I."

Yochum said he had been considering the decision when to retire for some time. His wife Patricia retired two years ago from her faculty position in the Department of Accounting. But with the completion last summer of the rigorous accreditation process undertaken by accrediting agency AACSB, Yochum felt like this was the ideal time to step aside.

"There's a lot of momentum. The Strome gift (the $11 million donation by the Mark and Tammy Strome of the Strome Family Foundation) is really a trigger for a lot of things we want to accomplish. The next issue becomes, 'How do we keep that momentum going?'" Yochum said.

Agarwal has been appointed interim dean for the next 12 months, while a nationwide search is conducted to find Yochum's replacement. Senior university officials know that replacing Yochum will be a difficult task.

"Dean Yochum has been a valued colleague of mine for more than 20 years, but more than that, he is a really good friend," said Old Dominion President John R. Broderick. "He has been a tremendous servant of the university, and will be missed."

In a letter to the campus community after Yochum announced his intention to leave, Provost Carol Simpson thanked Yochum for his dedication to ODU.

"His continuous support for undergraduate and graduate education, research and scholarly excellence, and relevance to the Hampton Roads business community has ensured that the College will continue to thrive," Simpson wrote.

From the time he started as a young faculty member in 1975, Yochum has seen countless changes to post-secondary education. In his State of the College address last August, Yochum explained the need for the College of Business and Public Administration to be mindful of the changing trends of educational delivery, such as the need for degrees to be tailored to accommodate lives that can't be stopped for students to attend classes full-time on campus.

But Yochum said last month that it is also important not to completely forgo ODU's traditional strengths. The business college has a full array of online offerings, but Yochum noted the school also has a decades-long tradition of strong, face-to-face instruction from its award-winning faculty.

"We're starting to get empirical evidence that MOOCs (massive online open courses) are not what they're promised to be," Yochum said. "Because of the seductive nature of the technology, it's extremely inviting to think that undergraduate education can be put online, cheap. There is data telling us that is a rough road."

Yochum pointed to the increasing availability of hybrid classes - and hybrid degrees such as the new M.B.A. program that can be done live, online, or as a combination of both delivery methods - as a more sustainable model, with better outcomes for students.

Yochum intends to stay connected to the university in retirement, participating in collaborative research projects.

Looking back on his career, Yochum said his highlights come in the form of interactions, professionally or personally, with the more than 10,000 students he has instructed over almost 40 years.

"There's nothing better than seeing students that I taught 30 years ago come back in and visit, and they're bank presidents, or Fortune 500 executives, or doing other great work around the world," he said.

And that's Yochum's long-standing goal for the College of Business and Public Administration, and for Old Dominion University - that the faculty, staff and students who represent the college realize that they take a back seat to no one.

"We need to stress our ability to be the best in the world in what we do. You see it in our faculty. You see it in our graduates," Yochum said. "A key part of this is we are positioned to react in a positive way to serve our students. And every day, you see the results."