Mississippi College Alumni Magazine | Summer 2011

Keeping His Focus

Dr. Marcelo Eduardo's big-picture vision has transformed the MC School of Business.

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A native of Bolivia, Marcelo Eduardo describes his middle-class childhood in South America as very similar to a middle-class childhood in the United States. Eduardo’s childhood dream was also similar to that of many all-American boys. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer was, “a professional athlete.” A star tennis player in high school, Eduardo discovered Mississippi in 1980 courtesy of a tennis scholarship to Delta State University (DSU).

“I saw an athletic scholarship in the United States as a step toward my goal of becoming a professional athlete,” Eduardo says. “I had graduated from high school in November, which is the normal graduation date in Bolivia. I was baffled that no one would give me a scholarship for the following January – such was my naiveté about college athletics and when scholarships are granted. The one exception was DSU, which had lost a player mid-season. I accepted the scholarship and relocated to Mississippi sight unseen.”

After a couple of years spent playing college-level tennis, Eduardo realized his dream of becoming a professional tennis player was not destined to come to fruition.

“Looking back, I was fortunate that my parents had the insight to foster those dreams, while at the same time insisting that I have a strong education on which to fall back in case those dreams didn’t work out,” Eduardo says. “Now, as a parent myself, I am at least somewhat comforted by the fact that I obviously did listen to them.”

Eduardo shifted his focus from hitting balls to hitting the books. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from DSU, and began working on his M.B.A. while coaching the Delta State women’s tennis team.

“I taught some classes while working as a graduate assistant, and realized that I really enjoyed explaining and illustrating business concepts and theories,” Eduardo recalls. “I think all true teachers can relate to this. There is a great degree of satisfaction in helping people understand something complex. I knew then that I wanted to teach.”

After earning his M.B.A. from DSU and a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Mississippi, Eduardo accepted a teaching position at Mississippi College in 1997. In just four short years, Eduardo rose from instructor of finance to chair of the business administration department to associate dean to dean of the School of Business. In the decade since, Marcelo Eduardo has taken his vision for the School of Business from mind’s eye to an impressive reality.

“It is honestly hard to put into words what Marcelo Eduardo has done for the School of Business,” says Dr. Lloyd “Bo” Roberts. “The tempo starts at the top at any organization, and Dr. Eduardo established a new tempo here. He has literally transformed the MC School of Business.”

Roberts should know. A former dean of the School of Business himself, it was Roberts who originally hired Eduardo as a professor of finance. When Roberts elected to step down as dean in favor of returning to the classroom, he recommended Eduardo for the position.

Dr. Roberts points to three areas in which Eduardo’s intense efforts have most noticeably paid off – cultivating strong relationships between the School of Business and MC alumni and between the school and the Mississippi business community; the transformation of Self Hall, the home of the School of Business, into a signature business facility; and recruiting the highest caliber of instructors to join the MC faculty.

“Dr. Eduardo has created and furthered so many relationships that have led not only to increased financial support for the School of Business, but to support and recognition for the school and its programs in the Mississippi business community,” Dr. Roberts says.

“That is perhaps the least seen yet most important part of his work.”

Also under Eduardo’s tenure, Self Hall has undergone a multimillion-dollar overhaul that included a renovated auditorium, modernized classrooms, and state-of-the-art technical equipment. Eduardo identified the enhancements that should be made, then helped recruit equally visionary donors who made the physical transformation possible.

“If we wanted to remain a premier business school, we had to have facilities consistent with the educational experience we were giving our students,” Eduardo says. “The ‘new’ Self Hall is an asset in recruiting new students and faculty members. There is an inherent pride in being part of a place that’s leading edge.”

While the new facilities are impressive, Eduardo considers the instructors who teach there his greatest accomplishment. As dean, Eduardo has recruited an outstanding faculty and provided them with the motivation and tools they need to take the School of Business to a higher level.

“People walk into Self Hall and see very nice facilities, but our faculty is what makes us who we are,” Eduardo says. “Today, we have the strongest faculty we have ever had in the School of Business. That is something that we’ve built over time. I would place our faculty against that of any other school in our region. They are second to none in terms of their credentials and their professional experience, and they share a common thread that will always attract students – their love of teaching.”

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The MC community and School of Business alumni are celebrating his many accomplishments to date, but Eduardo is not one to rest on his laurels.

“Dr. Eduardo is always pushing to another level,” Dr. Roberts says. “He is always working. He sets high goals for the faculty and students, but he is always encouraging and accessible,” says Dr. Roberts. “Most importantly, he is a good man. If I could use only three words to describe him, I’d choose ‘character,’ ‘integrity,’ and ‘perseverance.’ Then again, I could also say, ‘Give me a superlative,’ and I know that Marcelo Eduardo would fit it.”

While his big-picture vision for the School of Business has enhanced the institution itself, Eduardo has never lost sight of the school’s ultimate purpose – serving its students.

“The job of a leader is to make sure the true mission of an organization doesn’t change,” Eduardo says. “The mission of the School of Business is to provide personalized, caring instruction for our students. Our faculty is among the best and our facilities have been upgraded, but that personalized, caring instruction is still the mission that sets the MC School of Business apart. There are a lot of good business schools out there, but this is what makes us different.”

“Dr. Eduardo is as concerned about his students’ personal lives as he is the big picture of the School of Business,” Dr. Roberts says. “He can be tough, but he has a big, soft heart.”

His former students share that opinion, describing Eduardo as one of the toughest, kindest, best instructors they have known. Following his 2000 graduation from the MC School of Business, Jonathan Ishee attended Vanderbilt Business School. Today, Ishee is president and CEO of Broad River Furniture, a chain of 12 furniture stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, ranked among the top 100 furniture companies in the United States.

“When I arrived at Vanderbilt, I was intimidated by the pedigree of my classmates,” Ishee recalls. “It wasn’t uncommon to sit between a graduate of Harvard on one side and Duke on the other. But I quickly discovered that Dr. Eduardo’s finance classes had prepared me every bit as well as any of my classmates. I never saw a concept that he hadn’t covered in detail and in a way that ensured we understood the concept. It was such an advantage to have had a professor that cared enough to challenge us.”

keeping-his-focus-3.jpg“The thing I remember the most – and dreaded at the time – was that Dr. Eduardo made us learn how to calculate an internal rate of return and a net present value by hand, without using a calculator. The concept has stuck with me ever since – don’t just memorize the formula, understand what it means,” says Thomas Blalock ’04, ’06, vice president of investor relations at Parkway Properties, Inc. “Dr. Eduardo is a great professor, mentor, and friend. I would encourage current business students to take his class and learn from him. He is guaranteed to have a lasting impression on their lives and their careers, just as he’s had on mine.”

“Dr. Eduardo still keeps up with me 10 years after graduation,” Ishee adds. “You don’t get that at other schools or with other professors. I have had a lot of great teachers, professors, mentors, and leaders, but Dr. Eduardo is among the very best.”

Now an instructor in the MC School of Business himself, Chris Smith ’01 has benefitted from Eduardo’s guidance as both a student and as a colleague.

“One of the things about Dr. Eduardo that impressed me as a student was how encouraging he is,” Smith says. “In teaching a difficult subject, it’s easy to ‘talk above’ your students, but Dr. Eduardo always made me feel like grasping financial concepts was within my reach. Even with all the responsibility he carries now, I know his chief concern is still the success of our students.”

With his vision, leadership skills, and business acumen, it’s no exaggeration to say that Dr. Marcelo Eduardo could have successfully pursued any number of careers. Fortunately for Mississippi College, he followed his passion. And while he’s assumed a leadership position in the years since he arrived on campus, that passion is still what he treasures most about his role at MC.

“I never get tired of sharing my excitement for all the things that you can learn when you step into a classroom,” Eduardo says. “The satisfaction that I derive from both explaining a concept and from seeing students truly understand it is something that I feel blessed to have. I have no question in my mind that teaching is the best job in the world.”

 

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