On the eve of his retirement from full-time teaching, Marketing Professor Lawrence J. “Larry” Ring looks back on his 34-year career with William & Mary. Recruited in 1985 by former Business School Dean John Jamison, Professor Ring established the Executive MBA Program and graduated the program’s first class in 1987. Since then, he’s taught students in every executive MBA class, and has taught and influenced the lives of many students in Mason’s full-time MBA program as well. His commitment to his student’s success makes it easy to understand why Professor Ring is a favorite among students. Jennifer Quartana Geuthoff, MBA Class of 1995, and Deloitte’s Global Deputy Chief Ethics Officer, offered:
“Larry made us think and pushed us to analyze, assess and create workable marketing solutions to real life problems. The cases were tough and the discussions rich because of his guidance.”
Over the course of his career, Larry has spanned the globe, traveling to more than 60 countries, connecting with students on campus and in the corporate arena. His work has enabled him to cultivate a worldwide reputation for excellence in consulting and executive education, especially in Australia, South Africa, and Europe. As a testament, his office walls exhibit memorabilia from a lifetime of accomplishments and experiences.
As Larry prepares to enter a new phase of life, he reflected on a career that spanned 34 years at William & Mary, launched him overseas and now finds him on the threshold of retirement. Professor Ring candidly recalls, “I accidentally became a college professor. When given the chance, I discovered what a great opportunity it was to teach and work with all ages of students.”
In 1967 Larry entered Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering in pursuit of becoming an astronaut. He was completing his third year when significant layoffs in the field of aeronautics made job opportunities scarce. Larry quickly saw the need to go in a different direction and added coursework in business and commerce. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management and a Minor in Aeronautics Engineering. “Sometimes it’s wise to know your original plan isn’t going to work.” He followed that degree up with a Master of Science in Management and Ph.D. in Marketing.
In 1974, Larry followed his Purdue professor to the University of Toronto to complete his Ph.D. By chance, while there he became a Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing and Business Policy and later business partner to Doug Tigert, a professor at the University of Toronto who later became Dean there. Larry returned to the states after two years in Canada.
Larry met his wife, Kathleen in 1976 while Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. She was an art teacher whose love of art history spanned decades. When they moved to Williamsburg, she joined the board at the Muscarelle Museum, and was later named an honorary alumna of W&M (2015).
Returning to the University of Toronto Larry worked with his partner Doug Tigert to devise an executive education program with an emphasis on retail strategy. They taught retail executives to think more strategically about their business and to be more data driven in their approach. “At that time, the early 1980s, there were not many options in executive education specific to retailing. We offered the first retailing strategy executive course in 1983. That course still exists today as Strategic Planning and Management in Retailing and we have run it hundreds of times publically and privately and on every continent except Antarctica.”
In 1993, an executive attended the Australian program seeking help with a hardware business his parent company had acquired. Eventually his company would be restructured and transformed into Bunnings Warehouse, today a multi-billion dollar company similar to Home Depot. Bunnings Warehouse owes many thanks to Larry Ring and his cohorts who developed the retail and operational business models that allowed for the overhaul needed to transform Bunnings from a small enterprise to a Big Box platform.
Larry’s growing expertise in executive business education coincided with statewide interest to bring an executive MBA Program to Eastern Virginia. In 1985, the State Council on Higher Education approached W&M about establishing such a program. Larry was recruited from the Executive MBA program in Toronto to start a similar program at William & Mary. Collaborating with Dean John Jamison, Larry designed the curriculum, recruited students and started the new degree program in a matter of months. After directing the EMBA program for three years, he then spent an additional three years as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Mason School before settling back into teaching where his true passion resided. Current Dean of William & Mary’s business school, Larry Pulley, states, “Our faculty have done some amazing things, launching an online MBA program, a master of science in business analytics program, and now an online version of the MSBA. But nothing rivals what Larry did in arriving in August 1985 and launching our Executive MBA Program four months later in January of 1986.”
Larry teaches using the case method, examining real-life situations and putting the student in the role of decision maker. His grading scale places heavy emphasis on class participation and he stresses the importance of thinking for yourself. “In my class you need to be able to bring an argument to the table and recognize there may be a better approach to solving a business problem than what was outlined in a particular case study. There are always new ways of approaching the same case.”
Over the years, Larry says teaching has provided him with the best of both worlds. “It’s allowed me to introduce academics to the business world and business industry has been brought into the field of academia.” He smiles and adds, “People have told me I’m not a true academic. I’m compromised by business.” Larry would like to be remembered as “An Educator and Consultant to Industry.” And for valuing “Family and Good Friends.” These four pillars have provided him with a fulfilling and active life.
When asked about his feelings regarding retirement, Larry says, “I’m just retiring from my full-time position at William & Mary. I still have executive education and consulting work that I’ll be doing.” However, within the next five years he anticipates tapering his business demands and fully embracing retirement. He looks forward to keeping up with his two sons Josh (W&M ’02, MBA’09) and Zack (W&M ’04) and five grandkids. “They don’t get any younger. That’s at the top of my list. I will definitely miss teaching though”. And then there is golf. “It won’t be rushed,” Larry said of his love for the game that challenges him and provides good times with friends.
Judie Snipes, MBA Class of 1988 poignantly sums up Larry Ring’s retirement and his departure from the School of Business by saying “I want Larry to know how wonderful my experience was because of him. I retired as a hospital executive in 2015 and owe my growth in administration to William & Mary. For thirty years I have supported the program and hope to do so each year. Larry Ring, may you know that you made a difference!”
To honor Larry in his last year of teaching at William & Mary, alumni hosted a dinner in Northern Virginia in February and a reception in Norfolk is planned for April 17 at the home of Shep Miller, MBA Class of 1988 and his wife Gigi Miller. Registration details can be found online. In addition, former students and friends are invited to make a gift to the Business School in Larry’s honor, which will support the Executive MBA Alumni Chair, an endowed professorship held by Larry since its inception, which benefits faculty research and salary support for the Business School. Gifts may be made online or by contacting Kim Sperling at 757-221-7848 or [[m|kimberly.sperling]]