David R. Klock took the helm of Florida International University’s College of Business as dean, on Oct. 1, after serving in a similar role at the University of Alabama-Birmingham’s School of Business.
A milkman’s son who earned a doctorate in finance, Klock’s career has spanned leadership positions in both academia and business.
Soon after he arrived at FIU, Klock began holding open forums for students, where he has laid out his priorities, including hiring more faculty members.
Eager to learn more about Klock, we sent him these questions, and he emailed his responses:
Q.You have an interesting background for an academician, in that you were chief executive and chairman of CompBenefits Corp. Please tell me about that entrepreneurial experience.
In 1980, while at the University of Central Florida, a former student asked my wife Phyllis and me to get involved in CompBenefits, a dental benefits company. It was barely a year old, with no full-time employees. We started as unpaid consultants. Our friends at the university thought we were crazy, but we saw potential.
By 1986, the company had grown substantially. My involvement as a consultant steadily increased, and in 1991, I resigned my position at UCF and went to work full-time as president of CompBenefits.
Just after I arrived in Atlanta, the chairman of the company told me he was selling the company. I said, “I just gave up my tenured position, and now you’re selling?” His response: “Oh, don’t worry, you and Phyllis will buy it. It’s $25 to $30 million, and you’ll find the money.” I thought he was joking, but sure enough, we did. When the deal was done, Phyllis and I were the only original shareholders left.
From there, the company took off. After several acquisitions, we went public in 1995. In 1998, with the company still thriving, the stock valuation hit a snag. Our original investment bankers came back to us and suggested we take the company private, which we did in 1999. We operated the company for six more years, growing with acquisitions, including Oral Health Services out of Miami and Vision Care Plan in Tampa, a new line of business for us. After five years as a private company, it was time to sell, and Humana emerged as the buyer in 2005. When the deal closed in 2006, we were providing benefits to just under 5 million members in 23 states, with over $350 million in revenue.
Q. You also have experience in the corporate world, serving as a director. Please tell me about that.
In addition to serving on the board of CompBenefits when I was chairman and CEO, I have served on several corporate boards. The first was Province Healthcare, a chain of rural hospitals based in Nashville. While I was dean of the business school at Cal Poly in Pomona, I was invited to be on the board of directors and chair the Special Litigation Committee of Cheesecake Factory. I’m now on the board of Mayer Electric, a $600+ million private company in electrical equipment distribution, based in Birmingham.
Q. Now that you are here, what are your academic goals at FIU’s College of Business?
Before I arrived at FIU, the college went through an intensive strategic planning process, and made a decision to focus on three thematic areas: healthcare, entrepreneurship and international business. Our primary mission is developing, nurturing and supporting world-class faculty dedicated to leading the institution in those themes.