Professor chosen as Wefald Leadership Chair settles in at K-State


Stacked cardboard boxes surround the otherwise bare office of Thomas Wright in Calvin Hall. The new professor of management will fill his office and a new position created this year.

Wright was chosen to be the first Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in the College of Business. The Leadership Chair Yar Ebadi, dean of business, said the position was created in 2005, and it merited a national search.

According to literature from the College of Business, Paul and Susan Edgerley established the Jon Wefald Leadership Chair through a $500,000 donation. Paul Edgerley is a K?State alumnus, and the position is the third the couple has helped create.

The endowed chair is through the Kansas Partnership for Faculty of Distinction Program sponsored by the Kansas Board of Regents.

At K-State, Wright will have several responsibilities, including teaching classes and directing the College of Business Center for Leadership, Ebadi said.

“As an expert in organizational behavior and leadership, the courses Dr. Wright will teach, as well as his research and other academic responsibilities, align most closely within the management discipline,” he said.

Wright’s East Coast accent seeped out slightly as he described his experience living on the coast and recent arrival to the Midwest.

“I can honestly say I have liked every place I have lived,” he said. “I was told that (in Manhattan) you will have people waving at you and smiling. I’ve always heard positive things. I have been very pleasantly surprised with how most people are.”

Wright said he grew up on the East Coast, but came to K-State from the University of Nevada at Reno where he was a tenured professor in management.

As the first chair, Wright said he is excited for the flexibility available.

“One of my other charges is – through my research and working with other faculties – to create synergies to help facilitate K-State’s reputation with management research,” he said.

He said he wants to develop outreach programs for K-State constituents and stake holders, and he plans to develop a leadership class within the leadership institute.Areas of Expertise

Brian Niehoff, department head and professor of management, said the search to fill the position started last fall. Though candidates were reviewed throughout the nation, he said Wright was chosen because of his teaching abilities and research contributions.

“He has an outstanding record of research in the area of leadership,” Niehoff said, “and I think that he is really going to make some great contributions to the classroom.”

Niehoff said he thinks Wright will benefit K-State for many reasons, including the connections Wright has made around the world.

Wright’s international reputation is because of his research that is recognized in management journals, Niehoff said.

Wright said he is the associate editor for the Journal of Management and the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

“It does take a lot of time,” he said. “One has to wear multiple hats, and I can always work on being a better multi tasker.” Wright also has been named a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. According to the association’s Web site, the organization awards the fellow status to its members who “have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service and application.”

OTher Interests Wright’s expertise also reaches outside the areas of academics as a self-described gym fanatic.

He said he is a member of the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters and competes in Master’s Powerlifting meets, which are for members 40 years and older.

“I try to train five or six days a week,” he said. “Although as I get older, I do a lot more stretching than I did when I was younger.”

Wright said he joined the organization in 2004 and began competing after his younger gym friends told him he was “strong … for an old guy.”

He said he wanted to know what that meant, and now he has competed in world championships and is the reigning world champion of the bench press for his age and weight category.

“I was pretty proud about that,” he said. “I’m very competitive – so I don’t remember the losses so to speak, but I had a lot of fun doing that, and my wife is supportive because it keeps me out of trouble.” The beginning This semester, Wright teaches Behavioral Management Theory and he said the course material is similar to the courses he taught in Nevada.

“From the few weeks I have been teaching, I am very much enjoying the class here and the students – I haven’t put them to sleep yet,” he laughed.

Wright said the course teaches students the benefits of understanding the behavior involved with companies and their employees. He said the research involved in the studies helps both the company’s productivity and the employees’ psychological well being.

“My research is always focused not only on the organization but on the individuals in the organization,” he said.

Wright said his first impressions of the campus have been positive, and everyone has been very welcoming.

“My wife is already working on her various purple outfits,” he said, “and she got me a nice K-State tie. Both my wife and I are very much looking forward to being a part of the KSU and Manhattan community.”