On Strategy and Stewardship
"You can have a real impact here."
Frank laid out a very clear proposition. “Come to Atlanta, roll up your sleeves, and help us make that happen. You can have a real impact here.”
Ambitious types like Noonan embrace a challenge, so he packed up his home and family, made a leap of faith, and moved south.
He immediately got to work adding value to the school, earning the first of his dozen-odd MBA teaching awards in only his second year. Countless alumni credit Noonan for teaching them to decipher complex data and make better decisions.
“He made the courses so interesting and the material accessible — he took tough concepts and knew how to break them down so that you could get it, and then once you got it, you could feel smart,” said Stacey Rudnick 99MBA. “He challenged us in a really unique way, but he also taught us to see that we could do it. He brought everything back to ‘how does this help somebody make a better decision?’”
“Everyone has a duty to leave things better than they find them."
Three years into his job at Emory, Noonan became dean of the full-time and evening MBA programs and more directly took on Frank’s original challenge. Through a variety of internal surveys and published rankings (like those in Bloomberg Businessweek) administrators recognized various needs whereby the student experience could be improved. Noonan quickly embraced the need for change and worked to be a catalyst. By responding to feedback with fresh intentionality, the school saw its outlook improve. In four years as program dean, Noonan and other caretakers of the school steered the program to top 25 status.
“So many people have worked so hard to create the great school we see today,” Noonan said, reflecting on his career. “I know where my own fingerprints are, but I also appreciate the legacy I built upon. Everybody here has been building on what others did before them. We couldn’t have done what we did in the late ’90s without that great base of faculty and staff, and the regional and local reputation of the university. The leadership at that time — our team — we did well. We got the school solidly into the game: We became a nationally ranked MBA program. But it was 75 years in the making.”
Noonan retired from Emory in Fall 2018 but has remained a familiar face in the building, teaching the occasional workshop and offering a strategy-minded ear to professors and administrators. Through it all, he remains one of the school’s most respected and favored educators.
It’s clear that at his core, Noonan desires to move individuals and organizations forward. His perspective is steeped in appreciation for those before and optimism for those ahead. “Everyone has a duty to leave things better than they find them,” Noonan said. “When you are in an institution, you build it and you grow it. It’s the way you express your gratitude to the people before you. People sometimes harbor this illusion that they themselves have created their value, but we all push forward the work of others.”