By Peter Galuszka
As noted in previous postings, I have always been curious as to the role in the Teresa Sullivan flap of big money hedge fund traders who are University of Virginia alumni and live in a world beyond most of us.
Of special curiosity is the role allegedly played by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II, who has given $100 million to the school and who created the John Paul Jones Arena, now a major destination for rock concerts and other events. In the midst of the putsch led by Rector Helen Dragas against Sullivan, Jones penned an opinion piece in the local Charlottesville newspaper that U.Va. needed a “stakeholder-driven” strategic planning and ”transformative change in attitude and vision” to compete with the best schools in the country.
The Washington Post ran a story Sunday that makes this all seem a lot more confused and a lot less sinister than we may have believed. Jones wrote his op-ed without knowing that the full Board of Visitors had never voted together to remove Sullivan. He really didn’t play much of a role and in fact had turned down Dragas’s earlier offer to become a board member.
Fueling the idea that hedge fund big shots were controlling the school’s fate was a strange mail sent by Peter D. Kiernan, a Goldman Sachs partner and head of a Darden School foundation suggested he was complicit with Dragas in ousting Sullivan. Kiernan resigned his UVa post after the email was made public.
This all raises questions. Why are these guys so out of touch if they are such school bankrollers? Did they honestly screw up or did their egos somehow get in the way? How valuable is their influence other than the obvious cash donations? The Post notes that Sonia Jones, Jones’s wife, is a yoga freak and talked the school into adding academic programs involving the practice, raising some questions among the faculty that others on this blog love to trash.
At the end of the day, the overarching question is just how valuable is finance as a career goal for Cavalier grads and others like them? You make a lot of dough but are you really all that smart?