When Robert Sumichrast was hired in spring 2007 to succeed George Benson as dean of the Terry College, he came to the job with a distinguished track record of success at LSU's E. J. Ourso College of Business. When Sumichrast (pronounced "SUM-uh-crast") became dean at LSU in 2003, the MBA program was ranked 109th in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Four years later, as Sumichrast was leaving LSU to come to Terry, LSU's MBA program had risen all the way to 55th — and it fared even better in Wall Street Journal rankings, which are based solely on recruiters' impressions of MBA students who are entering the workforce. LSU had heretofore never been ranked by the WSJ, but under Sumichrast's leadership it debuted at No. 9. Fundraising also improved dramatically during Sumichrast's tenure. In 2003, LSU's B-school raised $1.5 million; four years later, it took in $8.3 million.
Sumichrast is the product of a working-class family in northern Indiana, and his parents still live there. Recently, Sumichrast called his 90-year-old father, who had just spent a grueling three days on a 20-foot ladder trying to cut a dead branch out of a tree with a chain saw. Eventually, his father succeeded, and to document the struggle he measured the branch the way a deep sea fisherman measures a sailfish. "He said it was 37 feet long and that it made a huge crash when it hit the ground," said Sumichrast. Asked whether he felt any trepidation at the thought of his father doing the kind of manual labor that would tax a man half his age, Sumichrast replied, "He knows what he can do better than I do."
On the job since July 1, 2007, Sumichrast wasted no time getting to know faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the Terry College. His Prius is typically the first car to arrive in the Brooks Hall parking lot in the morning, and oftentimes the last to leave at night. His calendar is booked weeks in advance as he leads the Terry College to a position of national prominence.