By Jennifer Kwan
Tom Knowlton is finally home.
After working abroad for more than 10 years, the newly appointed dean of Ryerson’s faculty of business management is ready to inspire some Canadian students with tales of success in the real world.
Most recently, Knowlton was president and chief executive officer at Kellogg Canada, and he’s learned that it takes more than eating your morning bowl of cereal to get ahead.
“When I’m looking at a résumé, I’m looking for signs of activities beyond schooling,” Knowlton said. “I’m looking for what sets them apart from all the rest.”
Much like his beloved predecessor Stan Heath, who died suddenly of a heart attack last September, Knowlton is the kind of guy the business faculty wants to lead the department, the guy with real-world experience to pass on to Ryerson students.
After graduating from the University of Windsor with an M.B.A., the Toronto native worked as a brand manager with Colgate Palmolive and General Foods.
In 1980, he took a job at Kellogg Canada, eventually spending some time in the company’s operations in England. He said he hopes to pass some of his experiences to students to teach them the value of expanding their work backgrounds.
“It was a great chapter in my life from both a family and business point of view,” Knowlton said. “I felt homesick, especially in the early days. But it was very broadening for me.”
Now Knowlton has new challenges to face. It’s not just students who will look to him for leadership, but staff as well.
“We’re looking for great things from him,” said Lee Maguire, associate dean of business management. “He understands how to motivate a ‘soft’ leader because he’s not a should, stab and push leader.”
Although he’s only been on the job six weeks, Knowlton has already begun building relationships and getting a feel for the programs’ standards, even meeting with faculty on a one-on-one basis.
“Based on our strengths and weaknesses in the past, I want to find out what we are capable of,” Knowlton said. “It’s important not to raise expectations to unrealistic levels.”
In the next couple of months, Knowlton will look closely at what his department really needs—including the possibility of moving his students from their Victoria Street building to a new facility.
Talks of a new location have been going on for decades, and with $100-million worth of construction set for the campus in the next few years, Knowlton thinks it’s time his program also start thinking of a move.
“The challenge is to find the location and the money,” he said.
Eric Filmer, a fourth-year business student and president of the Business Students Association, said he hopes Knowlton promotes Ryerson’s graduates in the corporate world.
“For business grads it’s an upward battle,” Filmer said. “Queen’s and U of T have such a strong name behind them, and Ryerson is still developing its name.
And for Knowlton, developing that name means improving students’ experiences here, and in turn, the quality of their degrees.
“We’re living in a really exciting time,” Knowlton said.