John Robson, former dean of business school, dies

When John E. Robson set a goal, he didn’t rest until it was accomplished.

George J. Benston, the John H. Harland Professor of Finance at Goizueta, experienced this determination first-hand.

“John was trying to recruit me to come to teach at the business school,” says Benston. “When he found out I was going to be at a meeting in Washington, he showed up at my hotel and took me to dinner. I remember the phrase he used: ‘We’re dealing with wet clay. Come help me mold it into a first-rate business school.’ ”

Robson, dean of Emory’s Business School from 1986 to 1989, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under President George H. W. Bush, and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, died March 20 at seventy-one after a six-month struggle with cancer.

During his tenure at Emory, Robson brought a keen business acumen and an interest in global affairs to the University, recruited many of the business school’s faculty, and was influential in securing top business leaders to serve on the school’s advisory board. One leader of industry Robson frequently invited as a lecturer was chairman of The Coca-Cola Company, Roberto C. Goizueta. The enduring relationship between Goizueta and the business school culminated in 1998, with the dedication of the $25 million facility and burgeoning academic program that bear his name. Goizueta Business School is now routinely ranked as one of the best in the country.

“John was incredibly dynamic and, like many CEOs, had a short attention span–things had to happen right away,” says Benston, who joined the faculty in 1987. “When he came to Emory, the business school was a good teaching institution but had virtually no research going on, no computing system. Students had to go to Georgia State to run their projects. John turned that around and laid the groundwork for what the school has become.”

Previously, Robson was a White House staffer and Department of Transportation counsel for President Johnson. As chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board for Presidents Ford and Carter, Robson is credited as the architect of airline deregulation in 1978. He left Goizueta to return to federal public service when President Bush tapped him to become Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, helping to coordinate American aid for the emerging free markets in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Robson remained involved with Goizueta, creating an annual scholarship for an outstanding full-time MBA student. Robson is survived by his wife, Margaret, and son, Douglas.

A profile of Robson appears in the Fall 2001 issue of Goizueta Magazine,