Moshe Porat was Temple University's "$80 million man."
For 22 years, the powerful dean of the Fox School of Business helped raise tens of millions of dollars, first for the eight-story Alter Hall at 1801 Liacouras Walk, and then for a building now under construction across the street, also for the business school.
"Under the dean's leadership, we built a new, state-of-the-art business school, and are currently constructing an addition," said Samuel Hodge Jr., who teaches law at Fox. "This has been done by the dean's raising millions in donations."
Porat was ousted July 10 after a university-retained law firm issued a report saying the business school had faked statistics to juice its online M.B.A. program's rankings. U.S News and World Report stripped the Fox school of its No. 1 online ranking in January, and announced Wednesday that it was checking the university's other submissions. Then on Friday, the Pennsylvania attorney general said it was investigating the extent of the fraud.
"I appreciate that the ranking issue is a big controversy at this moment," Hodge said. "However, I have been a faculty member at Temple University for 43 years, and have witnessed the business school grow and mature dramatically over the last two decades under the dean's leadership."
What will be Porat's legacy now that he has lost his position as Fox dean, although he remains a tenured professor?
His supporters say Porat, 71, was pushed out too quickly for a rankings scandal discovered under his watch. They argue that the Jones Day law firm report released last week doesn't make clear that he personally ordered numbers to be manipulated. More than 100 faculty and staff turned out at a somber meeting last week with Temple president Richard Englert and provost JoAnne Epps to voice their defense and criticism of Porat.
"Have we sacrificed due process for expediency?" asked one finance professor.
"We should bring in an outside ethics person to oversee fixing the M.B.A. program. How can we ask someone from inside to fix the problem?" said another.
Porat was the architect of a massive Fox fund-raising campaign that began over a decade ago, starting with Alter, the sparkling business school facility that opened in 2009. And he was in the midst of raising $100 million for the second building.
Alter Hall was built starting with a $15 million gift from local credit card mogul Dennis Alter, plus a $25 million capital appropriation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and $25 million in university bond proceeds. An additional $13 million was raised by Fox through a campaign called "Building Fox, Transforming Lives."
That campaign was Porat's brainchild. Additional donors included the school's namesake, real-estate magnate Richard J. Fox, as well as Robert A. Fox, Raza Bokhari, and Irwin Gross, an alum who gave $1 million to name the mock trading floor in Alter Hall.
Porat, dean since 1996, had a free hand to oversee the school's decentralized budget. The system put each school at Temple in charge of its costs and revenues.
"The Fox School was the only college at Temple that was consistently profitable," said Bokhari, a physician entrepreneur and Fox graduate.
From 2005 to 2016, Fox enrollment grew at an average rate of almost 4 percent each year. In a time of increasing competition among business schools, total enrollment — between Fox and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management — grew in part by launching the successful online M.B.A. program, which leapt to first place in the U.S. News rankings from 2015 to 2018.
"When I came on board in 2003, the student population was around 6,500 to 7,000 students, compared to today at over 10,000 students," said Arvind Parkhe, chair of the strategic management department at Fox, whom Porat recruited from Indiana University. "In the depths of the Great Recession, he was able to collect funds to massively organize the alumni and students to build Alter Hall, our current building. It was an $80 million affair. To pull that off in the hard economic times — and to look at enrollment, Fox has grown tremendously and is a shining star."
"Porat is what we call a 'dean's dean,'" Parkhe added. "He attracted meter movers to the faculty, people who make an impact in research, corporate outreach, and executive training."
Porat also showed a heavy-handed management style and didn't always welcome input from faculty, said current and former faculty leaders.
"His management style was to be in charge of everything," said Art Hochner, former president of the faculty union and a business school emeritus professor. "But he got results. He clearly was a strong leader, but he also was someone who took away power from the faculty."
Jones Day found that the school misstated the number of students in the program who provided graduate standardized test scores, the undergraduate GPA of students, its number of offers to applicants, and student debt.
Problems began after Porat disbanded a committee that oversaw the accuracy of the program's data, according to the report.
Some donors, like Bokhari, are angry. Bokhari pledged an additional $1.5 million to the $100 million capital campaign Porat had underway, but said he is reconsidering.
"I would have expected a phone call" before the ousting of Porat, whom Bokhari described as a personal friend.
Porat "was shocked," Bokhari added. "He said he is assessing the situation. He feels he's been victimized. He is also reviewing his options and is very graceful. He wants Fox to do well."
Anxiety among students and faculty is high. Due to the scandal, Temple will now seek reaccreditation on a much earlier deadline – by the winter of 2018-19, rather than a year later. An interim dean will likely be appointed for a year or two, Englert told faculty. During that time, a national search will take place for Porat's replacement.
"How do we respond to students? I'm teaching a class tomorrow," a professor asked Epps and Englert last week.
"I wouldn't recite the soup-to-nuts events," Epps responded, according to people who attended. "But this is a place that says we live with integrity and reinforce that notion. We will be sending a direct message to students soon."
Englert said he was asked by an undergraduate student whether the scandal had inflated GPA scores. "I explained to him, no. Students may feel anxieties that have nothing to do" with the scandal, Englert said.
"There was a thought to send out talking points. But there are legal consequences," Epps told the crowd. "We have to be careful about how we handle that." M.B.A. students are suing Temple over the falsified ranking data.
Hodge, who co-chairs the school's 100-Year Celebration Committee, believes Fox "will continue as a powerhouse for many years to come. It has developed into a place that has supported its students in and out of the classroom, with high-caliber resources and an emphasis on career-placement services," with a 99 percent placement rate.
Fox has recruited more than 30 faculty during the past couple of years, "some of whom possess amazing credentials from the best schools in the country," Hodge said.
"The dean has driven the faculty's recognition of the importance to publish in the top journals," Hodge said. Under Porat, new programs were created for undergraduates in financial planning and supply chain management. There were also new master's degrees in digital innovation in marketing; innovation management and entrepreneurship; IT auditing and cyber security; and business analytics. Temple now offers an online master's in human resources.
"I know about this last program personally, since my daughter just received an advanced degree in this discipline with honors," Hodge said. On the doctorate level, Temple created an executive doctor of business administration program with students in Beijing.
As for Porat's once-complete control over the program, questions remain as to whether he should have handled the power differently.
"Did he delegate enough? What was his management style? These are the detailed questions that will be asked," Parkhe said. "Porat, net-net, put Fox on the map of world-class business schools. It's tragic to me that his achievements as dean are overshadowed."
This article has been corrected to note that Samuel Hodge Jr. teaches law at the Fox School of Business.