In the middle of a three-hour meeting in August, Dr. Will McIntosh, the dean of the University of Cincinnati's College of Business, gets a call.

It's Phil Cox, president of UC's Board of Trustees and CEO of Cox Financial Corp. He is requesting some different interns than the MBA students McIntosh recommended.

A heart-stopping moment for a new dean?

"Phil was laughing," McIntosh explains, with a hearty grin of his own. "He said the MBAs have too much firepower to intern in his office."
It's their private joke. Earlier this year, four part-time MBA students at UC won the first Business School Championship Series. Think of a cross between The Apprentice and the annual Crosstown Shootout, pitting the scrappy public school boys of UC against the suave Xavier Musketeers.

Cincinnati Bell CEO Jack Cassidy challenged the MBA teams to devise a strategy for making Bell products more relevant to young professionals. They created white papers, worked with Bell staff to analyze data, and delivered a grueling boardroom presentation before Cassidy and executives from Fifth Third Bank, Bear Creek Capital and MediaMarketing.

Although McIntosh is careful not to disparage Xavier's elite MBA program, he clearly relishes the fact that, just a few months after he took over a business school with serious financial and mission concerns, his students trounced their opponents with a smart idea.

Make no mistake about this corporate exec-turned academic: Will McIntosh is ambitious. And not in a small way.

Since settling in at Lindner Hall last November, McIntosh has brought in a new leadership team and moved the dean's office from the "ivory tower" sixth floor to a prominent lobby position. He's rebuilding a Business Advisory Council of business people, alumni, students and other stakeholders to re-mold curriculum. He spends days visiting the chiefs of Greater Cincinnati's largest companies to find out how his students and programs can mesh with their business needs.

Perhaps most important, McIntosh has drawn dozens of those stakeholders and faculty into a strategic planning process that ultimately could reinvent the business college.

"The thing that is sort of unique about Will is he has that combination of academic background and all of that experience"”some real, recent global business," muses Jerry P. Leamon, Deloitte's New York-based global managing partner of clients and markets.

Leamon, a 1972 UC accounting grad, served on the search committee for the new dean after Fritz Russ was promoted to a senior vice provost position. Will McIntosh, Leamon says, has "the ideal combination of someone who listens very, very well, but, at same time, has an almost hidden desire to be very, very successful at whatever he sets out to do."

FROM THE WTC TO VILLA HILLS

On Sept. 11, 2001, McIntosh was on a subway train from Hoboken, N.J., to Manhattan, where he managed global research for AIG Global Real Estate Investment Corp.

The Kings High School graduate had left an academic post at the University of Kentucky in 1993 for a hard-charging career in commercial real estate. He traveled up to three weeks per month: Amsterdam. Abu Dhabi. Brazil.

On this morning in 2001, though, his train arrived under World Trade Center Tower One after the first plane hit.

"You could smell the jet fuel and there was a haze of smoke," McIntosh remembers in a calm, matter-of-fact tone. "We came up five stories (from the subway) and saw people lying in the lobby. Port Authority workers were giving CPR. We thought the building was on fire. We had no clue."

McIntosh, a well-groomed man wearing silver cufflinks and highly polished shoes, tells this story in his office, with its pleasant view of a green quadrangle and waterfalls. His gaze is direct, his sentences crisp, but you feel this is not a story he has told dozens of times.
That fateful morning, McIntosh and others ran out through dust and grit. Then the second plane hit.

"On 9/11, I saw a little more than I cared to see," he sighs, to end that tale.

McIntosh then took an even more demanding job as managing director and global head of research and strategy for ING Real Estate Investment Management, a company responsible for $42 billion in assets, a $107 million budget and 680 employees.

But with the births of the McIntosh's two children, his heavy travel schedule began to wear on the family. They returned to Villa Hill, Ky., where Beverly Landrum-McIntosh grew up. Will continued to commute to New York for a year. That was when Dr. Norm Miller"”a nationally known real-estate expert and prominent UC faculty member"”nominated McIntosh to be dean.

EXCITEMENT INFUSION

Miller had known McIntosh from his years at UK and from their involvement in real estate groups and think tanks.

"He was always twisting my arm to take leadership roles in professional organizations," says Miller. "He's an optimist," he replies when asked what he likes about McIntosh.

"He's always excited about the kind of business support we need," Miller adds. "Every time he comes back from a meeting downtown with some company, he's really excited about what he heard. Compare that to a dean coming back and saying, 'Well, that's going to be a tough nut to crack'."

Maribeth S. Rahe, the president and CEO of Fort Washington Investment Advisors, invited McIntosh to lunch with her and her staff for a get-to-know-you session.

"We talked about his goals and objectives, which sound fabulous," recalls Rahe.

UC takes pride in being the birthplace of cooperative education (now commonly called "co-op") 100 years ago, when 27 engineering students began alternating college classes with relevant work in mines and mills.

Fort Washington Advisors"”the money management and primary investment arm of Western and Southern Life Insurance Co."”has used UC business co-op students as analysts. Rahe says she seeks out "exceeding bright people with good quantitative skills, people skills, and who can work in a very collaborative environment. We are not looking for star performers. We want people who have that thirst for knowledge."

The question is: How many UC graduates fit that bill?

FINANCIAL SQUEEZE
The College of Business undergrad enrollment is about 2,000. The average SAT score among entering students is 1070, according to its Web site. With 73 full-time and 15 part-time faculty, the college's student-to-faculty ratio is 24 to 1. Average SAT scores are 1300-1450 at the best business schools, according to Business Week's annual rankings, and they carry an average student-faculty ratio of 11 to 1.
Indiana University's business school is ranked 10th on that 2006 list, while Miami University is 17th and Ohio State is 43rd. Neither UC nor Xavier made the top 50.

The chief problem for UC is, of course, money. State support as a percentage of the university's overall budget s declined from 30 percent in 1996 to 18 percent this year, according to UC spokesman Greg Hand. The pressure of building a college's budget falls heavily on the deans, faculty and staff. McIntosh brought on board an experienced development expert, Patty Ragio. But some vacant faculty positions are being left unfilled for now.

Funding successes include a state-of-the-art business technology lab now under construction in Lindner Hall, built with a $675,000 grant from software giant SAP America.

"This is not unlike a business," McIntosh notes. "What drives revenue is enrollment, gifts and endowments. It's not rocket science.
"We aspire to be a top 50 urban business college, valued for our business expertise, and a catalyst for growth and development," he adds. "We are going to focus on our strengths in niches such as our real estate program, our entrepreneurship program, our marketing program, and our operations management program, and make them among the best in the country."

CALLING CORPORATE SUPPORT

McIntosh is not wasting time in attacking the revenue shortfall. While spending time with regional CEOs he's thinking of his wish list"”such as $250 million for faculty endowments. On a smaller scale, he believes the naming rights for the school is worth $50 million or more.
When McIntosh talks to business executives, his message goes like this: "If you partner with us, we can have the finest business college in the nation. And in my opinion, Cincinnati deserves it."

He's got a point.

In addition to the heavy concentration of Fortune 500 companies in Cincinnati, UC's Center for Economics Research and Education reported that the number of area "growth businesses" grew from 195 in 2004 to 221 in 2005. New investments by those companies totaled $2.2 billion in 2005, up 17 percent in a year.

But to truly understand UC's business college's potential, you have to meet young students such as LaVandez Jones and Sharathbabu Maramraju.

Jones, an Avondale native and a top graduate from Walnut Hills High School. is now a UC junior majoring in marketing and finance"”with top honors scholarships. He co-ops at BASES, a Covington-based global provider of marketing research. He studied in European countries this summer, and this fall he hopes to master Mandarin while visiting China. Jones already has formed his own investment company with a friend.

"So that Cincinnati can slow down the brain drain, do not send people like me to college elsewhere," Jones emphasizes.

Maramraju is a 30-year-old Deerfield Township resident, with a wife and children. The leader of the MBA team that won the crosstown competition is a senior consultant in commercial banking at USBank in Blue Ash, yet finds time to take two UC night courses per quarter.
He says his MBA curriculum directly connected to the feasible, affordable solution that Cincinnati Bell's Cassidy loved: installing wireless internet access in apartment buildings that cater to 20-somethings.

Back in the dean's office, Will McIntosh says, "I'm not seeking a student who just wants to get his or her ticket punched. Instead, I want those who want to learn how to start a new venture and make it successful. I want to develop business leaders for the Cincinnati area."

He pulls out a copy of U.S. News & World Report's business school ratings, which rank by specialty areas. McIntosh's fingers run down the lists to real estate. "We should be listed here," he comments, gazing at the top five schools. "Here, too," he adds, pointing to entrepreneurship, where Babson College is No. 1 and Ball State is No. 5.

His voice turns conspiratorial. "I think if we focus our resources, we can knock Ball State off this category. Don't you?"