Int’l Drug Sales Exec. to Head ETS

Status: 
Archived
Subject: 
University Testing

Like last year’s appointment of a business-oriented politician, former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton, to head the College Board, the selection of a marketing manager from a multi-national prescription drug corporation to head the Educational Testing Service (ETS) speaks volumes about the priorities of the industry.

 

New ETS President Kurt Landgraf most recently served as chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont Pharmaceuticals. Unlike his predecessor, Dr. Nancy Cole, a well-published academic expert in the field, Landgraf has no professional background in testing. His only relevant employment experience came through a few years of work as part of ETS’ sales force more than two decades ago.

 

In his twenty years at DuPont, Landgraf gained a reputation for maximizing income through global sales. Not surprisingly, he has already told reporters that his main agenda for ETS is to “increase revenues” and mentioned potential expansion into K-12 education as well as testing for the military and corporations. Though hardly an impoverished institution — its budget is close to half a billion dollars annually — ETS ran a $7.7 million operating deficit in 1998-99 and expected to lose money in its fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2000, as well.

 

ETS employees who have suffered through several years of cost cutting (see Examiner, Summer 1999) are now expressing concern that “market share” will become the dominant goal of their work.

 

If the College Board’s experience is any guide, it will not be easy for Landgraf to impose a new corporate model on ETS: Caperton’s first year at the sister non-profit has hardly been a smooth one. Controversy initially arose when the new president announced creation of collegeboard.com, a for-profit subsidiary, and chose Westinghouse/CBS executive Willard Korn, a businessman without an educational background, to head it. Then Caperton fired a number of respected middle-managers and replaced them with new vice-presidents, hiking the total of College Board staff with that rank to seventeen. Upset employees leaked documents criticizing the changes to the media, forcing Caperton to attempt to explain his actions publicly.

 

When collegeboard.com missed its spring 2000 launch date, Korn quietly resigned, leaving the site displaying content identical to collegeboard.org. The new company did raise $15 million from a private venture capital firm. Caperton now promises that the commercial site will get off the ground this fall.