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For Mary Ann Scully, pivot to higher education a chance ‘to have an impact’

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, I’ve started a business, scaled the business and successfully sold the business. So, I think those are life experiences that, to some extent, I can model for a business school student body,” Mary Ann Scully said.

When Mary Ann Scully, a longtime leader in the Maryland business community and founder and former CEO of Howard Bank, announced that the bank was being sold to F.N.B. Corporation, many wondered what the next step would be for Scully, who decided not to stay on after the acquisition despite being offered a role by FNB’s leadership.

Scully herself was unsure exactly where she wanted to take her career. All she knew with certainty was that she wanted to find a role where she could continue making a difference in the local communities she had partnered with and grown alongside over the course of her career in Maryland. So, when the opportunity to lead the next generation of Baltimore’s business leaders at the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University Maryland presented itself, she decided to pursue it.

Listen: Women’s Perspectives Podcast with Mary Ann Scully

Scully, who is also an alum of the Sellinger School’s M.B.A. program, will begin her role as its dean on July 1 of this year. She spoke with The Daily Record about what interested her in the position, what lessons she will bring to Loyola from her time leading Howard Bank, and the experience of leading the search for the next president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which recently merged with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for length.

The Daily Record: Could you start off by telling me a little bit about how you came to have this position? When were you approached about it?

Scully: I was initially approached by somebody that I know at the school who said, “Have you thought about applying for this position?” And I said, quite candidly, that I had not, and I would want to know more about the fit, given that I’m not an academic and the term non-traditional is certainly one that I’ve become very familiar with in the last few months. I said, “Look, if somebody would like to talk to me about this, I’m pretty well-known for being a very curious person and would be happy to talk to anybody.”

To make a long story short, I spoke to the search firm. I then officially expressed an interest and applied for that position, and then entered the same stream that other candidates did.

TDR: I know you say that you’re not an academic, but have you taught at all in any capacity in your past? Has it been something that you were interested in pursuing?

Scully: I’ve been asked to do guest lectures at Loyola University and in other academic settings, whether those be high schools or for other colleges. So, I’ve taught a class but not an entire course.

In terms of the interest, one of the things that I did say to a number of people as we were moving towards the close on the Howards Bank-FNB transaction was one of the areas that I was going to look at was higher education. Whether that be teaching, whether that be an executive-in-residence position, I thought that that was a way to continue to make a difference. That’s very important to me. That desire to have an impact and to make a difference is just something that’s guided my life, and certainly higher education is a chance to do that.

So, higher education was always on the list of things that I would look at, but I had not started my own outreach. I had a couple of other universities that, during this process, reached out to talk to me about executive-in-residence positions. But I saw the Loyola opportunity as being the most impactful and the one that was of the most interest to me.

TDR: Could you expand on that a little bit? What made this particular position so interesting to you?

Scully: I think that any higher education job allows you to influence the direction of young people, and, in the case of a business school dean opportunity, to literally model for students in the business school what it means for me to be a successful businessperson. So, while I haven’t walked the walk of a faculty member, I have run a business. I’ve been an executive at a large company and I’ve been an executive at a small company. From an entrepreneurial perspective, I’ve started a business, scaled the business and successfully sold the business. So, I think those are life experiences that, to some extent, I can model for a business school student body.

I think the fact that Loyola has always served as an anchor institution in Baltimore city is also of great interest to me. In Baltimore city, its anchor institutions have really helped to stabilize neighborhoods and revitalize neighborhoods. Loyola’s done a great deal of that historically, especially in the Govans area contiguous to where the Evergreen campus is. And so, that ability to work in an anchor institution was also very appealing.

TDR: What about Loyola’s Sellinger School differentiates it from other business schools, either in Maryland or beyond? What do you hope to do as dean to continue to differentiate it?

Scully: I think the fact that Loyola’s Sellinger School is embedded in a liberal arts university is very significant. I talked a good deal in my interview process about how my liberal arts background really helped me forge relationships all over the world throughout my career. I was an international banker for 12 years and my liberal arts training was as helpful in those experiences as my business training. The opportunity that Loyola has to tie those two together is critically important, and they do tie them together in their curriculum.

No. 2: Loyola is, as a Jesuit school, one that is firmly committed to living the Ignatian values. Those Ignatian values are all around addressing the whole person and allowing the whole person to reach his or her greatest potential.

My opportunity is to build on those strengths that are already there and to leverage those strengths, along with the connections that I have in the business community — certainly in Baltimore, but also beyond Baltimore, given my institutional investors, my international banking experience and my corporate banking experience. It is the partnerships in the business community that are going to provide our students with the best experiential learning opportunities, internship opportunities and, ultimately, job opportunities.

TDR: How do you plan to bring lessons from your experience as the leader of Howard Bank, and also from the acquisition process, to this position?

Scully: We took the company through a number of capital raises — most equity, but some debt raises as well — and I think that that’s relevant experience for the school. Students need to understand the importance of both human capital and financial capital; those are the two sources of energy for any company. So, when you grow a company from $17 million to $2.5 billion, when you take it through eight capital raises, when you expand the employment base of that company from less than 30 to 220, you’ve learned a lot of lessons about human capital and financial capital. And those are really important lessons for students, but they’re also helpful skills for the university, as well.

The ultimate decision to sell the bank is a good lesson in doing what’s best for the largest body of stakeholders despite the challenges. Selling Howard Bank was certainly an emotional experience for me, and it was an emotional experience for a number of my colleagues. But we agreed that the economic environment and industry environment was suggesting this was the right time to do that. So, I think that idea of doing what’s right for the biggest group of people and not just what’s comfortable for you is an important lesson.

TDR: How is the search process for the next leader of the Greater Baltimore Committee going?

Scully: We have formed a search committee that’s composed of board members of the GBC, board members of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and individuals that haven’t been served in either capacity, because we’re viewing this merger as a springboard to creating an organization that not only will continue the good work of the GBC and the EAGB, but that will be able to include other community stakeholders who haven’t necessarily been engaged.

We are in the process of interviewing search firms right now. The search firms that we’re interviewing all have experience in this type of organization, a not-for-profit membership organization, and also have proven experience in delivering a diverse slate of candidates. So, we are interviewing three search firms and expect to make a decision on which search firm we will use, hopefully, by the end of this month. The search is underway.

TDR: Has it been interesting being on this side of the search committee just after going through a rigorous interview process yourself?

Scully: Yes, it’s been fascinating to come out of being a candidate to now be part of a committee that’s going to select the firm. I think that my recent experiences hopefully will help all of us, because my experience with the search at Loyola was such a positive one, and I observed so many positive things that we’ll hope to replicate in this search as well.