Dr. Christopher Puto has announced that he will step down as dean of the Opus College of Business and as holder of the Opus Distinguished Chair at the University of St. Thomas, effective June 30. He will be on a sabbatical before returning to the faculty in 2013.

As dean for nearly 10 years, Puto directed the effort to earn accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. The accreditation, achieved by less than 5 percent of the world’s business schools, is widely regarded as the highest standard of quality for business education.

Dr. Christopher Puto

Among other accomplishments during Puto’s tenure have been shaping the 2001 combination of graduate and undergraduate divisions into the College of Business, establishing a full-time day MBA program, doubling to 105 the number of full-time faculty members, opening Schulze and McNeely halls, and revitalizing the Family Business Center.

Under Puto’s leadership, St. Thomas has continued to emphasize business ethics education and has the largest collegiate business ethics faculty in the United States. The college established the Veritas Institute in 2007 to foster ethically and socially responsible conduct in organizations; the following year the institute and the Center for Ethical Business Cultures received gifts of $8 million and $2 million, respectively.

Puto said the timing is right to step down as dean and more actively engage in teaching, research and consulting.

“I am heartened by the transformation that has occurred during the past 10 years,” Puto said. “Our faculty and staff have succeeded in recruiting outstanding students during exceedingly difficult times for business schools. We now have in place the physical plant, the future generations of scholars and a culture of excellence that await the next generation of leadership to guide us to new levels of prominence and accomplishment. Our vision of excellence in educating highly principled global business leaders is well in sight.”

Dr. Susan Huber, executive vice president and chief academic officer, praised Puto’s service as business dean and said few other individuals could have led the AACSB accreditation effort.

“Chris faced a huge challenge when he became dean,” Huber said. “The Board of Trustees was convinced AACSB accreditation was necessary for the long-term success of our business programs, and Chris carefully developed a strategy. We will always be indebted to his vision, his planning and tenacity in pursuing and achieving accreditation.”

Huber said she will appoint an interim dean for the 2012-13 academic year, during which there will be a search for a permanent dean.

The Opus College of Business filed its AACSB application in 2006, and Puto submitted a plan to meet 20 standards. AACSB accepted the plan in 2008 and Puto carried it out over two years. The process culminated with a site visit by deans from AACSB-accredited schools in November 2010 and approval by the organization’s board.

“We believe we’ve always offered outstanding business programs,” Puto said when the accreditation was announced in January 2011. “This is a significant external validation of that. It could not have been accomplished without a faculty that is on par with the nation’s finest business schools, and without the generosity of donors committed to the kind of education offered by our Opus College of Business – an education grounded in values, ethics and the liberal arts.”

Puto also pointed out the immediate impact of accreditation on the one-third of St. Thomas students studying business. The college offers undergraduate concentrations in 13 fields and master’s degrees in seven programs, and enrolls another 4,300 participants a year in executive education classes.

“We are committed to the idea that education is an investment, and all good investments should grow over time,” he said at the time. “AACSB accreditation clearly adds value to a St. Thomas degree; it is a value not only for current students and future graduates, but for our 31,000 alumni.”

Puto joined St. Thomas in August 2002 after four years as dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. Other academic positions included associate dean and MBA program director at the University of Arizona (1989-1998) and assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan (1984-1989).

Puto’s academic credentials include becoming the first person to receive a Ph.D. in business administration from Duke University (1985). He has an M.B.A. from the University of Miami (1966) and a B.S. in economics from Spring Hill College (1964).

The Detroit native has won several research and teaching awards: an Andersen Consulting Professor of the Year in 1997, an Enterprising Educators Award from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (2000) and a Journal of Consumer Research honor for best long-term contribution (10 years or older) in 2002.

He is a board member of AACSB International, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, Minnesota BioBusiness Alliance, National Black MBA Foundation, Minneapolis Downtown Council and Spring Hill College.