After getting her MBA, Diane worked
for a Fortune 500 company for three years, but
she missed the learning atmosphere. "I'm an academic
at heart. I wanted to be back in that setting," she
Krannert couple shares a behind-the-scenes look at their
jobs, family, and personal lives
By Melanie A. Hahn
and wives who work at the same place encounter a unique set of advantages
and disadvantages. David and Diane Denis manage to juggle work and family
life with remarkable success. Their well-rounded interests, support
of each other, and strong work ethic help them bring a personal touch
to their roles as faculty members in a finance department ranked by
the Financial Times as seventh in the world among MBA programs.
a kind, but not so similar
The Denises have several things in common: They're both
originally from Michigan; they both have their PhDs in
business administration (with a finance concentration)
from the University of Michigan; and they're both finance
professors at Krannert with strong backgrounds in corporate
finance. Their personalities, however, are noticeably different.
Someone meeting them for the first time will immediately
notice that Dave is rather quiet and introspective, while Diane is ... well, not.
The combination works. "Dave's
sense of humor, along with his basic personality and
nature, is a great complement to mine," Diane says. "I
have a wide emotional range, but Dave's more solid. He
calms me down, and I liven him up."
"She's a fun person," Dave
says. "I like the fact that she has a bigger emotional
range." When Diane jokes that he might be a fuddy-duddy
if married to someone with a quieter personality, Dave
merely grins and replies, "Who knows? I might be the
fun one then."
Diane says she doesn't think
Dave's introverted personality means he isn't fun - just
quieter. "Because of that, it's even funnier when he
zings one in there," she remarks. "You're just not expecting
it, and it cracks you up."
to speak British
who received her BS in management from Oakland University
in 1980, went on to get her MBA from the Cranfield Institute
of Technology in England in 1981 before going to the
University of Michigan for her PhD, which she obtained
native of Alpena, Michigan, Diane hadn't traveled much
and was excited when she received a Rotary fellowship,
an educational award for international understanding,
that allowed her to study abroad. "I chose England because
I had to be able to speak the native language," she says.
The opportunity was especially important since she wanted
an internationally focused business perspective.
Even though she could understand
the language, Diane says the culture shock was "more
than I expected." However, some things turned out better
than she anticipated. Warned that England would be "all
tea, no coffee," she took a suitcase full of coffee and,
of all things, toilet paper. "I was told it was really
hard to find decent toilet paper in Britain," she explains,
and adds with mock seriousness, "It turned out that both
things were readily available."
Her extroverted personality
often amused the reserved British. "They viewed me as
kind of a character, but not for any reason people here
would have looked at me that way," she says. The fact
that she was a woman also made a difference. "They were
around 20 years behind on the woman-MBA thing; they had
134 people in their MBA program at the time, but only
17 were women."
In addition, Diane was somewhat
of a "rookie" in the class. "The requirements for the
program were that you had to be at least 25 years old
and have at least three years of work experience," she
says. "I was only 21 and had come in right after getting
my undergraduate degree. They let me in anyway because
they knew the diversity of my background would benefit
the program. But they kind of thought of me as a baby
Toward the end of her studies
at Cranfield, Diane and the other students had to practice
in mock job interviews. Diane says the experience really
showed her how her mindset differed from that of her
fellow students. "When the others were critiquing me,
they said I did all right except that I was 'hopelessly
optimistic,'" she says. "They told me it wasn't believable." At
Diane's protests, they relented. "We finally agreed that
since I would be job hunting in America, where everyone
is hopelessly optimistic, I could stay that way," she
If she had indeed started
out as hopelessly naive as her British friends judged
her to be, Diane says, living overseas for a year taught
her a lot. "It wasn't a better education than I could
have gotten in the U.S.," she says, "but I became very
independent and self-sufficient. And I met some great
people. I still have a lot of friends from the program
that I've kept in contact with for 20 years."
Dave Denis says he turned down a
couple of job offers after getting his MBA, deciding
to stay in school because he knew he would eventually
get a PhD. "I thought if I took a job, I'd
never come back," he says.
in good sport
Dave, who is from Detroit, stayed in the United States for his education, receiving
his BS in finance from Syracuse University in 1982, his MBA from the University
of Michigan in 1984, and his PhD in business administration from the University
of Michigan in 1988. An avid sports fan, he decided to play basketball in high
"I thought I should do
whatever I could to get in shape to play," he explained, "so
I started running cross country and track." However,
his basketball career ended fairly soon. "As a freshman
in high school, I was only 5'4" and weighed 100
lbs," Dave says wryly. "I quickly came to the
conclusion that maybe I should stay with running and
give up on basketball." Ironically, his sophomore
year, he shot up to 5'10", and is now 5'11".
Though he decided to stick
with running despite his sudden new height, he still
likes to watch basketball and looked forward to passing
his enthusiasm on to his son Matt at an early age - perhaps
"Matt was born between
two important Big 10 games when we were in Michigan," Dave
says. "I think it was between the IU game and the
Purdue game." The games were on Saturdays, and Matt
conveniently came into the world on a Thursday. Elated
at Matt's consideration, Dave couldn't figure out why
Diane refused to let him take Matt to the following Saturday's
"I think I was the only
one who thought that was a good idea," Dave says. "It
was shot down quickly."
As an introvert, Dave says
he enjoys being with people but often finds himself a
spectator to conversations rather than a participant.
In fact, he found teaching difficult at first because
he had to stand up in front of people and talk.
"I was quite nervous
for a long time," he said. "I still get a little
nervous. But I think most people are a little nervous
no matter how long they've been teaching. I guess if
you didn't have that reaction, it would probably mean
you just don't care anymore." He smiles. "But
it is sort of odd to accept the fact that people are
actually waiting to hear what you have to say."
Dave says he enjoys teaching
much more now than he did at first. "For one thing,
I'm sure I have a better handle on doing it now," he
says. "Also, I get to interact with some pretty
bright students. I teach primarily master's students
with previous work experience, and they have a lot to
bring to the classroom."
He's learned that teaching
isn't just standing in front of a class lecturing. "The
trick is to somehow get the students to teach themselves," he
explains. "You can't stand up there and say, 'I'm
the expert, let me impart my knowledge to you.' The student
may as well go read a textbook. If someone just tells
you something, you remember for a while and then forget.
But if you have to experience it yourself to complete
a project, you internalize it. Then you don't forget."
Dave enjoys the time by himself
that golfing, bicycling, and his other personal sports
interests give him, but says he appreciates Diane's extroverted
personality because she's the one who arranges social
events. "I like to participate," he says. "I
just wouldn't think to initiate it."
facets of teamwork
Dave and Diane met during the doctoral program at the
University of Michigan, where they had classes together
and were both on the PhD softball team. After a game
one night, the team went to a bar to celebrate and
then went to a doughnut place. Dave and Diane stayed
after everyone else left. "The next thing
we knew it was 6:30 a.m. and we'd stayed out all night talking," Diane
says. The following night, they had their first real date, for which Diane
made dinner. They were married two and a half years later.
A team not only in marriage,
the two served on the finance faculty at Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University prior to coming to Purdue,
and they have published several research papers together.
When asked why they chose finance as their area of expertise,
Diane replies, "Finance is basically applied economics.
You use economic analysis to predict the future and plan
When they came to Purdue in
1995, they found that the Krannert faculty's philosophies
matched their own. "Within Krannert, there are a
fair number of consistent priorities," Diane says. "There's
a strong emphasis on research and teaching, and the Krannert
faculty take both fields seriously."
Dave adds that the long-run
reputation of the school depends on original research,
and the school's research in finance and other areas
benefits the fields themselves. "But Krannert needs
good teaching, and the programs are very competitive," he
says. "We have to take that seriously and do the
best job we can, or we won't attract the best students.
Both things have been Krannert's philosophy for years,
and that's why the school has maintained its quality."
To Diane, pairing research
and teaching priorities simply makes good sense. "There's
no use in trying to create knowledge when you're not
able to communicate it to anyone," she says.
Working in the same department
leads to a few disadvantages. Because they often share
the same opinion about work-related subjects, there's
a risk that people won't treat them as two separate individuals. "We
agree on a lot of things, but it's not necessarily correct
to assume that we will," Dave says. Both have impressive
backgrounds. Diane's teaching interests focus on corporate
and international finance, and her research areas include
corporate ownership and control, downsizing, and management
turnover. Dave teaches corporate finance, and his research
areas include corporate ownership and control and corporate
Both are members of the American
Finance Association, the Western Finance Association,
and the Financial Management Association, and both serve
as associate editors of the Journal of Financial Research;
Diane also serves as an associate editor of the Review
of Financial Economics, and Dave is an associate
editor of the Financial Review and the Journal
of Finance, and co-editor of the Journal of Corporate
Finance. Dave won a Best Paper Award from the Financial
Management Association in 1990, and he and Diane won
the same award jointly in1992. Last winter, Dave was
appointed a University Faculty Scholar, an honor given
to Purdue faculty who have held the rank of associate
or full professor for no longer than five years and who
show exceptional promise as outstanding scholars.
Both also make a commitment
to serve Krannert in addition to teaching and research.
Last year, Dave chaired a committee of students, faculty,
staff, and alumni that helped formulate Krannert's new
strategic plan, and Diane is currently serving her fifth
year on the building committee, which is overseeing the
construction of Rawls Hall, set to open in the fall of
Dave was surprised to be asked
to chair the strategic planning committee. "I wasn't
very familiar with strategic planning," he explains.
However, Dean Rick Cosier wanted someone with a fresh
outlook, and Dave was relatively new to Krannert, having
only been there for four years. Dave relied on the dean's
expertise in strategic planning to get tips on procedure
but brought his own analytical expertise to the task.
The Denises say that working
together, whether on joint research projects or other
tasks, is easy for them, and can sometimes be an advantage.
"It certainly hasn't
hurt our relationship," Dave says. "It's nice
because you know where the other person is coming from."
Diane adds, "Yes, both
being academics, we don't have to explain our work stress
to each other. We know what's happening with each other." However,
she says, "being parents has strengthened our relationship
more than anything else. We've gotten to do a lot of
cool things, but nothing as cool as being parents."
(From left) The Denises, Dave, Diane,
Matt, and Ellen, and Reuben, their Bernese mountain
dog, at their home in Lafayette.
In addition to Matt, who is now 13, the Denises have a daughter, Ellen, who
is 11. Their family is a strong one.
quite willingly knocked ourselves out for 13 years to
put family first," Diane says. "We try to make
sure at least one of us is at our kids' games, performances,
or other events." There's a long list of these:
cross country, basketball, and baseball for Matt ("He's
a traditional sports guy," remarks Diane), and horseback
riding and violin performances for Ellen, who, according
to Diane, "likes to stay as far away as possible" from
the sports activities Matt likes.
On any given summer evening,
you'll likely find Dave coaching Matt's baseball team, while
Diane and Ellen will be off riding their two horses, Victor
and Bretteur, who are Percheron/Thoroughbred crosses. Diane
says horseback riding is great stress relief. "Everything
looks good from the back of a horse," she says.
In winter, Matt and Dave have
season tickets to Purdue basketball games. Family outings
often center around movies. And on those rare occasions
when they find themselves all home together, they've
been known to play a game of Scrabble.
Most important, the family
likes to just hang out and talk. Often, they only have
time for impromptu stand-up meetings just to find out
what everyone's up to before they rush off to their various
games, horse shows, and responsibilities. Though quick,
the conversations help reinforce the family bond.
"We're lucky; our kids
still think we're cool," Diane says. "Of course,
that could change," she jokes. "Talk to us
again in a couple of years."