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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 12, 2000. All rights


New CEO at ETS: Landgraf

E-mail: Barbara

Politicians, executives, and educators like to tout

diversity as a goal, but nuts and bolts experience with diversity

is hard to come by. So when Educational Testing Service proclaims

its brand-new CEO has a "deep and proven commitment to both ethnic

and gender diversity," a cynic might take a less than enthusiastic

view. Then Kurt F. Landgraf starts to tell about his life, starting

with growing up as an orphan in Newark in a neighborhood that teemed

with diversity. "Frankly I didn’t do very well as a kid. I just

didn’t really care," says Landgraf. "Where I grew up, you

didn’t go to college."

When Landgraf takes over as CEO on Monday, August 7, he will have

plenty of tales to tell about diversity in academic, political,


social, and emotional arenas. He spent the last 20 years as a


executive with DuPont, but he has also been an educator, a politician,

a minor league baseball player, a Navy pilot, and a father of five


Landgraf wanted to spend his post-DuPont life as governor of the state

of Delaware, crusading for better education, but when his election

bid was stymied by a technicality, he leapt at the chance to channel

his hankering for public service into ETS. Though he spent four years

at ETS early in his career, he is an outsider to the staid, nonprofit

testing business, and with his no-holds-barred directness, he just

might be able to spark the enthusiasm of a jaded industry and ignite


"I really think ETS must change in order to be a player and be

successful in the education business," he says in a telephone

interview last week, just after his appointment was announced. ETS

must play a more significant role in the national debate on


performance and accountability, he believes: "ETS has the unique

capability to influence the progress of education and education reform

in this country as well as internationally."

The 53-year-old nonprofit with the impressive campus on Rosedale Road

has traditionally concentrated on testing high school students to

predict success in college, but Landgraf wants to reduce ETS’s


on high stakes outcomes testing like the SAT and get into the K-12

assessment markets. He sees a two-pronged broader role to help improve

the quality of education, not just test for it.

"We have the ability to link up and have alliances in


including some of the teachers’ organizations, to provide development

opportunities for teachers and administrators," he says. "We

also have a moral role to help people prepare for the tests."

To anti-testing activists who raise the specter of "teaching to

the test," Landgraf has this reply:

"What I think you need for educational reform and accountability

is a rigorous standard, a curriculum that is supportive of teachers,

and schools with local autonomy. I am a big believer that everyone

can learn and achieve."

He will put increased emphasis on a diverse workforce. "As you

know, ETS is a very diverse organization. Because of what we do, we

have to be ever vigilant to retain, hire, develop, and promote people

from all ethnic and social backgrounds, because that is what our


look like, and what our customers want," he says. "The more

heterogeneous the organization, the better."

If the 54-year-old Landgraf talks like a politician,

it’s because he is one, and in fact the very reason why he came to

ETS, after a stellar corporate career, is that he strongly wanted

to go into public service. Labeling himself a fiscal conservative

and a social liberal, he had every intention of running for governor

and would be on the ticket except for a controversial technicality

regarding Delaware’s six-year residence requirement. Because


job required him to spend six-month intervals in Geneva, Switzerland,

the election board invalidated his bid. Landgraf is not bashful about

saying that his intended opponent was responsible for this thwarting

tactic: "I think I could have won the governor’s race, but we

will never know."

"I was going to run on educational reform," he says, noting

that schools are "substandard" in Delaware, which ranks first

in the nation for percentage of children enrolled in parochial


He is for charter schools; against vouchers; and against abortion,

capital punishment, and state-supported killing of any kind.

Landgraf is committed to meeting the needs of the disabled. "I

am acutely aware of these needs," says Landgraf, who is not shy

about telling the reason. He and his wife, Barbara, have five adult

children, and the oldest suffered birth trauma and has an IQ of 70.

"I am very active in Special Olympics and this fall will be the

keynote speaker for the national meeting of ARC (Association of


Citizens). Especially for someone who spent his life in a corporate

career, I have a very strong social leaning. Real inclusiveness is

extremely important to me."

He intends to channel his desire to be in public service to help all

ETS workers be service-minded. He wants to give every employee the

opportunity — actually the order — to take a public service

day, with pay, to go and do a "good work" in the community.

"We will support them financially, with paint, brushes, T-shirts,

lunch, whatever it takes," he says. "It has two impacts. It

makes them better corporate neighbors, and when people see the need

— that not everyone drives BMWs — they increase their


It worked so well at DuPont that his division’s per capita giving

to the United Way campaign broke all records.

Landgraf demonstrates no self pity about his background. "I am

maybe a little more independent than I would normally be, more self

sustaining — I had academic or athletic scholarships for all my

education." Rather, he thinks his background "makes me very

cognizant of the socio-economic underclasses."

He remembers his years at the Newark orphanage as being uneventful,

certainly not Dickensian, and perhaps more emotionally healthy than

a more disruptive domestic situation. He was adopted when he was 10,

and his adoptive father worked in a gas station, and when they moved

to Rahway, that was considered the suburbs.

Right out of Rahway High School, he signed as a pitcher with the


but soon was traded to the Phillies, playing for the summer with the

farm team in Reading, where he had a miserable earned run average

and did not make the cut. On an athletic scholarship to Wagner College

he encountered an economics teacher who changed his life. "It

was the classic story," says Landgraf. "He paid attention

to me, and from there my whole academic career changed. I decided

I wanted to do more than work at the Wawa, and I went from being a

mediocre to poor student to being on the dean’s list. I had a reason

to do well."

After graduation in 1968 he did a two-year stint as a U.S. Navy pilot

stationed on the aircraft carrier U.S. Kitty Hawk, among other


and then continued to serve in the reserves. In addition to discipline

and teamwork, he points out, serving in the military teaches respect

for people who do all kinds of jobs. For instance, a pilot’s most

valuable asset is the maintenance crew. "You learn how to deal

with all kinds of people," he says, "and as a very young


you get responsibility for very large capital assets. You learn


leadership skills very early on."

After four years at ETS, from 1970 to 1974, he spent six years in

various marketing and financial management positions with the Upjohn

Company. Along the way he earned several master’s degrees, in


educational administration, and sociology, from Penn State, Rutgers,

and Western Michigan respectively, and has taught these subjects.

He also is an alumnus of Harvard’s Advanced Management Program. He

joined E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company in 1980. From 1983 to 1986

he was based in Frankfurt, Germany, where his teenage children went

to international schools.

As president and chief executive officer of DuPont Merck


Company in the early ’90s, he grew the business tenfold in three years

and attributes the growth to using multiple task forces and teams

for decision-making and work implementation. A 1993 Harvard Business

Review case study highlighted his efforts to create a highly diverse

and inclusive organization at DuPont.

In 1996 he became chief financial officer and later executive vice

president and chief operating officer DuPont and chairman of DuPont

Europe, with responsibility for DuPont’s consumer health presence

in electronic commerce through its venture with WebMD. His most recent

position was chairman and CEO of DuPont Pharmaceuticals.

Landgraf comes to ETS as it is recovering from a shaky

economic situation. ETS is the world’s largest private educational

measurement institution; annually it administers more than 11 million

tests in 181 countries. ETS has 2,100 full-time employees, most in

greater Princeton. Landgraf is the fifth person to hold this job.

Founder Henry Chauncey was president from 1947 to 1970, William


from 1970 to 1981, Gregory Anrig from 1981 to 1993, and Nancy S. Cole

from 1993 to 2000.

Cole is an assessment professional known for her work in gender


and her announced goal at the beginning of her term was to put ETS

on a crash course to computerize. She did this, though it cost a


penny, and she devoted her energies to the organization itself,


her public appearances to the crucial ones.

Landgraf is going to be much more public. He is chairman of the board

of the Delaware Public Policy Institute and in addition to serving

on the board of the Biotechnology Industry Organization and a fistful

of other pharma/bio boards, he is on the board of IKON Office


the National Alliance of Business, the University of Delaware Research

Foundation, the Christiana Care Health System, the Wilmington Grand

Opera House, the Delaware Business/Public Education Council, the


State Chamber of Commerce, Goldey-Beacom College, and Wagner College.

When Landgraf addressed the entire ETS staff last Friday, he brought

outbursts of applause from the usually taciturn group, and the rest

of the speech, one observer said, was like a State of the Union


measurable on an applause meter.

One of his first crowd pleasers was to announce he was

doing away with the bigwigs’ parking spots, several spots in front

of each building marked Corporate Officer. He said that he would take

out those signs on his first day if he had to do it himself, since

preferential parking sends employees a subtle but negative message.

Then he debunked his bio by referring to an archived copy of a 1970

newsletter discussing his former job at ETS. His resume says his title

was associate director of marketing, but the newsletter talked about

less glorious duties for the 24-year-old Landgraf. "The newsletter

was right," says Landgraf. "I was in charge of the


box." He also decried his abbreviated baseball career.

In a pointed reference to ETS’s financial troubles, Landgraf tipped

his cap to Sharon Robinson, the current chief operating officer, and

said that he is glad she has decided to stay. ETS had been


a reported $15 million a year to fund the transition to computer-based

testing, and Robinson is getting the credit for helping the company

to get back in the black. Other approval-triggering promises:

To improve relationships with ETS’s client boards, such as the

College Board and the Graduate Record Examination. His opposite number

at the College Board is the former governor of West Virginia, Gaston

Caperton, who thinks like a venture capitalist and whose first move

was to turn the College Board website into a dot-com. The two


are likely to be a good match. Says one observer: "I see these

two going at it full tilt."

To improve ETS’s image, saying that if indeed the world does

not respect ETS as much as it used to, he will use his last ounce

of energy to fix that.

To spend less time on cost cutting (a top priority for the past

several years) and more time on revenue growing.

Perhaps his most controversial promise, one that might trigger

snickers from critics of ETS’s standardized tests, is to put a stop

to graded performance appraisals, saying that if someone consistently

rates a "three" or "average" they will stop trying

to perform at an above average level.

Happy about his new job, Landgraf tells how he felt when he drove

back to his former stomping ground: "I felt like I was coming

home, like it was exactly what I wanted to do for my life. I had had

a terrific corporate career, but I didn’t want to do it another day.

I found value here. You know, the staff here is just extraordinary.

When I walked in, there were signs all over; it brought a tear to

my eye. I loved it from the moment I drove on the campus."

— Barbara Fox

Educational Testing Service, Rosedale Road,


08541. 609-921-9000; fax, 609-734-5410. Home page:

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