Retirement Doesn’t Stop Corlett ’68
When Glenn Corlett ’68 returned to his alma mater Ohio University in 1996, he was looking for an opportunity to do something new. At the time, he had recently ended his tenure as the executive vice-president and chief operating officer for N.W. Ayer & Partners, an international advertising agency based in New York.
“There was a lot of consolidation in the advertising industry at that time, and we decided to sell the agency,” he said. “I considered retirement, but I wanted to do something else. What I really wanted to do was teach.”
“I have been a trustee for the Ohio University Foundation, the university’s fundraising branch, since the late 80s,” he said. “So I met with a few people that I knew from the foundation and offered to teach a class on tax or mergers and acquisitions.”
What happened next came as quite a surprise. Rather than offering Corlett a teaching position, then-president Robert Glidden suggested that he apply to be the dean of the business school. Aside from a two-year stint as an accounting instructor at Jacksonville University, Corlett had no experience working in the academic world.
“I told him, ‘Frankly, I don’t know anything about what a dean does,’” Corlett said. “And he replied, ‘That’s exactly what I’m looking for in a dean.’ Glidden wanted someone with more real-world experience, because most members of the Ph.D. faculty don’t have time to get a lot of in-depth, practical experience.”
Until his retirement in June 2007, Corlett served as the dean of Ohio University’s College of Business. He raised money for professorships and research projects, and developed more international programming to keep up with the increasing demand for graduates who are familiar with the global economy.
“My experiences helped me a great deal,” he said. “I did the things that I was good at and the faculty did what they were good at. It was a synergistic relationship.”
Corlett, a Cleveland native, attended OU in the early 60s, an atmosphere he describes as being like Happy Days, with button down shirts and crew cuts. He went there to play football, and wound up being an accounting major. By his own admission, he was better at the latter of the two.
As it turns out, Corlett spent almost 30 years gaining the practical experience that would help him to serve as the dean. After graduating from OU, he came to Ohio State for law school because of its highly regarded tax program. He says that the discipline he developed while at Ohio State was the perfect preparation for his career in accounting.
“I had learned to justify my opinions by being very thorough and complete in my research,” he said. “You don’t have to have that kind of discipline as an undergraduate. I had Dean Ivan Rutledge for jurisprudence at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Those Saturday morning classes were tough.”
After graduating from Ohio State, Corlett went to work for Price Waterhouse, holding staff and partner positions in Cleveland and Denver before becoming the partner-in-charge for mergers and acquisitions in New York. In 1990, he went to N.W. Ayer to become the chief financial officer.
When Corlett took the position of dean, he and his wife, Bonny, moved from mid-town Manhattan to the small city of Athens, Ohio.
“We moved from the biggest to the smallest,” he said. “But in some ways, I could do the same things in Athens that I could in New York. We could go to a play, go out to dinner, or go to an art exhibition, but instead of paying $95 for a Broadway show, we would pay $5 to see the Ohio Players.”
In all of Athens County, there is only one publicly traded company – Rocky Brands, Inc., of Nelsonville, Ohio. Corlett worked to build a relationship with the maker of hiking and hunting boots during his tenure. Along with other Ohio State College of Law graduates Curt Loveland, Mike Finn, and Harley Rouda, he currently serves on the corporate board for Rocky Brands.
“We work with Rocky so that our students can gain experience working on real world projects,” he said. “The knowledge that you can bring back to the university by virtue of sitting on a board is invaluable. We want to make sure that our curriculum is in sync with the issues corporations are dealing with.”
Corlett has stayed involved with Ohio University since retirement, continuing work with the international programs, serving on the Ohio University foundation, and traveling with the new dean, Hugh Sherman, to help maintain relationships with companies. He also continues to serve on several corporate boards in addition to Rocky Brands, including Preformed Line Products, Inc., Grange Insurance Companies, Copernicus Therapeutics, and Palmer Donavin Manufacturing Company. He also serves on the Ohio Venture Capital Authority by gubernatorial appointment.
“I’ll stay involved with OU as long as I can,” he said. “I really enjoy serving on boards, too. These kinds of things are fun for me.”
After retiring, Corlett and his wife moved to back to Cleveland. He plans to work in the community, particularly in the local school district, and spend more time with his grandchildren. When we caught up with him, he was in Virginia helping to develop a scholarship in the name of his friend and fellow Moritz graduate, Richard Williamson ’68, who passed away last year. In fact, with all this work, it hardly sounds like retirement at all.