In August 1991, Geoff Gordon arrived at NIU to begin his academic career in the Department of Marketing. He and his young family were excited to begin this phase of their lives with a new career in a new place without a thought of a 29-year career before retiring in June 2020. Geoff was a newly minted Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Kentucky. He had already had careers as a consultant with Anderson Consulting and department chair at Lycoming College. He even had owned a bar on the campus of Duke University. But Geoff found his home at NIU and in academia. He brought his unbelievable work ethic, intelligence, commitment, focus, strategic vision, generosity, and kindness with him and left his mark on NIU.
As a young professor and throughout his 29-year career, Geoff was respected and loved by his students. He was tough, fair, and genuinely cared about each and every one of them. He taught both undergraduates and MBAs. He accepted challenges…like being on the original team to design and implement the UBUS 310 course and teaching in the freshman UBUS 101 program from the start. Geoff led the NIU College of Business online teaching initiative for several years, organizing workshops and panel presentations to build faculty confidence. If Geoff believed in something that would benefit the NIU student, he backed it up with his time and commitment. He wasn’t afraid of innovation in the classroom. He wasn’t afraid to push for what was good for the students. And he never accepted the easy way out.
Geoff’s research record reflects his character and talents. He is highly intelligent and strategic. And his long, consistent publishing record is evidence of that. He is also generous and a true mentor. He engaged his colleagues in his research and co-authored articles with them. He saw faculty who struggled with their scholarship and worked with them. More than one Ph.D. out there can thank Geoff for pushing them through the dissertation phase and helping them get their academic career on track. And he never asked for anything in return. He created a culture of collaboration in the Department of Marketing 29 years ago that still exists today.
Over 29 years as a faculty member, Geoff served in many capacities at all levels across NIU’s campus. He made a difference on curriculum, personnel, and strategic planning. He was a longstanding part of the Academic Planning Council (APC), working alongside four Provosts. He led the work to revise and streamline the APC process. He brought a fair and consistent review to academic planning.
In the late 1990’s, Geoff had an opportunity to engage in a consulting relationship with OTA/Off the Record Research doing marketing research work. It is common for business faculty to engage in some consulting work but not as common for that work to benefit NIU like Geoff’s did. Geoff leveraged his relationship not for himself but for his colleagues, students, and the College of Business. He shared the consulting opportunities with others in the department. He got internships and jobs for students, and he solicited significant support for student scholarships. At every opportunity, Geoff brought in resources to NIU from OTA/Off the Record Research. He believed strongly that any external partnerships should directly benefit NIU and its students, as much or more than the individual. The donor wall in Barsema Hall reflects the incredible generosity that is a direct result of Geoff’s commitment to this institution, and his ability to think of others first. And, he consistently gave back personally to NIU as well. The donor wall is evidence of that, too.
Toward the close of the first decade in the 2000s, Geoff accepted the role of Chair of the Department of Marketing. He was a great department chair. All his talents and traits came together in his leadership style. In his tenure as chair, the department moved forward during some of the more difficult periods in NIU’s history. A great example of Geoff’s leadership is marketing’s focus on online education. While the college and university were talking about online teaching/education, marketing was doing it. Geoff inspired his faculty to develop online courses and supported them in the process. He developed a model for incenting and rewarding quality online teaching. Marketing was the first College of Business undergraduate program to be available for completion completely online and the first fully online graduate program in the college. It was Geoff’s leadership, commitment and strategic vision that made it happen. Side note…Geoff never taught or developed an online course himself. His energy was devoted to supporting his colleagues and team in course development. As chair, Geoff worked tirelessly for the department, for the students and for his faculty and staff. He cared deeply and personally about each and every person who worked for him. He was generous. He was kind. He was supportive. Geoff was known to “walk the talk.” He volunteered to help whenever needed in any capacity. He wasn’t afraid to dig in and work alongside anyone…from the building services team members to NIU’s President. And he treated everyone as equal and with respect. He respects the views of others. He respects the talents, ideas, and input from others.
Geoff joined NIU in 1991 with a desire to teach. Over his 29 years with us, he not only taught marketing to students, but he taught us all about commitment, consistency, work ethic, and above all kindness and generosity. His voice down the hall and in the classroom will be missed in the Department of Marketing, the College of Business, and at NIU. Although Geoff leaves NIU, he leaves it a better place for all he has given to this college and university.
by Denise Schoenbachler, the Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Professor in Business in the Department of Marketing, and Dean Emeritus