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George Carmany: A Sure Hand on the Tiller
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
George W. Carmany grew up by the sea. With a family in the resort hotel business in New York (Westhampton Beach on Long Island) and Florida (Delray Beach), he recalls being “on the water pretty much my whole life.”
His piloting prowess isn’t limited to boats. Carmany has had an important hand in shaping strategic plans under four Bentley presidents. His insights, honed from years in top positions at Bankers Trust, American Express and the Boston Company, have helped frame the university’s mission, with a focus on the integration of business and liberal arts, an international perspective, and expertise in information technology.
The Amherst College graduate arrived at Bentley by way of business. After a hitch in the Navy, Carmany joined Bankers Trust, first in New York and then in Sydney, Australia. In the 1980s, while working in corporate strategy at American Express, Carmany was tapped by a colleague to help then-President Greg Adamian create a long-range plan for Bentley. (The AmEx colleague was Bob Smith ’53, a Bentley trustee who would later become board chairman.)
Impressed by Carmany’s strategic thinking, Adamian and the board asked the businessman to take on a more formal assignment. His election as a trustee, in 1991, makes Carmany the longest-serving current board member. He credits the school for a willingness to embrace – and accomplish – big challenges.
“Bentley had undertaken a very ambitious program of building,” Carmany says of his early days on the board. “While attracting a large group of students, we still served a traditional constituency, and the focus was on business and accounting. Greg [Adamian] had ambitions to broaden that constituency by expanding curricular offerings. Building a strong liberal arts program has widened Bentley’s appeal.”
After Adamian retired, Carmany counseled President Joseph Cronin on internationalizing the college.
“A lot of my career had been in international business, so I was able to be helpful,” he explains. “We saw that the globalized American economy and emergence of international business had potential to give Bentley a large new constituency, both here and abroad.”
Carmany’s close involvement continued under Cronin’s presidential successor, Joe Morone. An extensive strategic review conducted in the late 1990s identified Bentley as “the business school for the information age.”
The articulated focus on business and IT was “wise and marketable,” Carmany notes. “It helped lift the academic profile substantially.”
Strategic planning has moved back into the spotlight with the arrival of President Gloria Cordes Larson. Trustee Carmany charts the current plan’s progress with a practiced eye, and continues his longstanding board role of advising on personnel matters. Considering the topic of Bentley’s future, he speaks in business terms.
“My interest is seeing Bentley continue to build its competitive position, based on its strengths and advantages,” says Carmany, who lives in Boston with wife Judy. “It’s not always de rigueur in academia to talk about competitive advantage, but from a business standpoint, it’s what we need to keep thinking about.”
When not advising investment houses (the G.W. Carmany Co. specializes in the health care industry) or tending to his Bentley duties, Carmany gravitates back to the sea. As longtime chairman of the America’s Cup Committee for the New York Yacht Club, he helps oversee the world’s premier yacht race. He, too, does a bit of competitive sailing. Carmany sold his oceangoing sloop Hornet a few years back, but he charters large race boats, ever savoring the sensation of “going faster than the boat next to – or preferably behind – me.”