In 1991, when Chuck Maxey arrived at California Lutheran University, the school was nationally known. It was known as the summer home of the Dallas Cowboys, although the Cowboys had stopped holding training camp there a few years before.
Today, the Cowboys have faded far down the list of first associations when someone mentions CLU. Due in large part to Maxey’s work as dean of the business school, the university is known in Ventura County as a partner in business and civic improvement; up and down the state as a source of economic research and forecasting; and around the world as an academic destination.
Maxey, 66, will retire as dean on June 1. His associate dean, Gerhard Apfelthaler, will be his successor.
Maxey will return to full-time teaching, something he hasn’t done since he took his first job as an assistant dean in the 1980s, at the University of Southern California. “It’s back to what I set out to do,” he said. “I had a colleague at USC who once told me, ‘administration rots the brain,’ so we will see if he was right.”
Maxey’s brain seems to have survived.
“He’s done a fantastic job,” said Bill Watkins, the director of the School of Management’s Center for Economic Research & Forecasting or CERF. “Chuck is an innovator. Universities and education haven’t changed much in a couple hundred years, but he’s open to new ideas.”
Maxey’s ideas include an online-only graduate degree in financial planning that was one of the first of its kind, and an expansion of the school’s international profile that has brought it hundreds of foreign students. There are now 129 graduate students from China alone in the School of Management.
Under Maxey, the business school has been “a campus leader in globalizing the campus,” said CLU President Chris Kimball. “The fact that Gerhard, who’s from Austria, came to us through the international program is a demonstration of that.”
Apfelthaler and Maxey have already started working together, Kimball said, on the school’s next areas of focus: entrepreneurship and sustainability.
But those will be Apfelthaler’s projects. Maxey said he started to think about retiring in 2012, when the School of Management celebrated its 25th birthday.
It just seemed like a natural point to plan the next phase and that needed to be done by someone who will be here for five years or more, and that wasn’t me anymore,” he said.
At business schools, Maxey said, there are generally two types of deans: “inside deans” and “outside deans.” An inside dean is primarily concerned with the curriculum and the rest of what happens on campus, while an outside dean is occupied with building the school’s reputation in the rest of the world.
Maxey said he was brought to CLU in 1991 to be an inside dean. The business school was five years old, and its only graduate program was a master’s in business administration offered at night to part-time students.
“We had a lot of work to do,” he said. Over the next decade, the school revamped its curriculum and added full-time graduate programs. The faculty has gone from nine full-time professors in 1991 to 27 today.
Amber Sims Hinterplattner, a 2007 graduate who now owns her own marketing firm in Santa Barbara, said she chose CLU because its undergraduate business curriculum was so well-rounded.
“At most schools it was a handful of marketing classes, and then all business administration,” she said. Sims Hinterplattner took a course from Maxey on organizational behavior, and he became a mentor to her. She recently visited the campus to offer Maxey and Apfelthaler advice on marketing the School of Management.
“He was always approachable, even though he was the dean and I’m sure he was very busy,” she said. “I got to know him very well, and he connected me with internships and people in business that could help me.”
Around 2001, the balance of Maxey’s job shifted toward the outside. Maxey joined the Ventura County Economic Development Association and other regional boards. He recruited Ventura County business leaders to his school’s own advisory board. And in 2009, he hired Watkins away from UC Santa Barbara to give CLU a respected economic forecasting operation.
“Visibility and reputation are the key concepts we’ve been keeping in front of us all the time,” Maxey said. “We want people to know we’re here, and we want people to know we’re good.”
People know, said Sue Chadwick, a retired Santa Barbara Bank & Trust executive who was one of Maxey’s first choices for the advisory Board of Counselors.
When her business hired someone with an MBA from CLU, it meant getting someone who was both academically and ethically prepared, she said.
“They talk a lot about character and integrity and morals. From my perspective, that’s important,” she said.
Chadwick said the Board of Counselors advised Maxey from the beginning to be active in VCEDA and other business, government and nonprofit organizations.
“That was one thing that Dr. Maxey took to heart,” she said. “He encouraged people to get involved in the community, and he himself got involved.”
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
In his pre-administrative life, Maxey studied labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois and then taught management and organizational behavior at USC.
He was an associate dean at USC, and a few years past his 40th birthday, when he uprooted his entire life. He married his second wife, Shirley, also a business professor at USC. In the same year, he took the job at CLU and moved to Thousand Oaks.
The Maxeys have been in the same home near campus ever since. Now their children — they each brought two into the marriage — are in their 30s and have children of their own.
“That was a lot of change at once,” he said. “Fortunately, they all stuck.”
Maxey’s family is clearly the most important thing in his life, said Watkins, who considers his boss a close friend. The two men sometimes get together at Maxey’s house to play guitar — country and folk classics, usually, though Maxey has penned a song or two himself.
“We argue over how many bars a song should have,” Watkins said. “We haven’t been able to do that much lately. When he’s retired, I suspect we’ll do more.”
--- Published in the Ventura County Star on April 28, 2013