What's on Your Nightstand, Tom Gilligan?

For Thomas Gilligan, recently appointed dean of the McCombs School of Business, reading is like breathing.

“I’m not sure I can think of myself as existing apart from reading—it’s an integral part of life,” Gilligan says. “Reading was a big salvation for me when I went into military service right out of high school. It’s the way I educated myself before I ever went to college.”

Prior to joining academia, Gilligan served as a Russian linguist in the United States Air Force and was a staff economist for President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Keep reading to find out what’s on his nightstand this winter.

“Economics 2.0” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) by Norbert Haring and Olaf Storbeck

I like this book because it weaves current economics research into thoughts about contemporary policy issues. So it’s not as trendy as some business books—it’s more thoughtful, similar to the style of “Freakonomics.” There’s a chapter on the market meltdown, there’s a chapter on labor markets, and on economists’ use of the athletic industry to study human behavior. Economics really is a far-wandering field these days.

It's Your Ship book cover“It’s Your Ship” (Business Plus, 2002) by Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff

This is a classic business book on leadership, written by a former naval officer about the things he learned while running a ship. Since this is my first permanent dean’s job, I wanted to read something like this. It reminded me of the importance of communicating mission to people—the necessity to delegate and trust people to carry out a mission. And, the importance of finding the right job for a particular person.

Airport directory coverFAA Airport and Facility Directory (South Central U.S.)

This is absolutely boring, but I’m a private pilot, so I have to familiarize myself with the aviation environment of Texas. This is usually what puts me to sleep. It just gives you basic information about airports and runways and navigational aids, etc. This is probably not inspiring to people, but it is what it is!

Courage to Teach book cover“The Courage to Teach” (Jossey-Bass, 2007) by Parker J. Palmer

As business dean, teaching is something I think about a fair amount. We’re just starting to see the impact of technology on learning styles. If you look at the kids who started college four or five years ago, these are the kids who grew up with computers in their rooms and cell phones in their pockets. The world has changed in dramatic ways over the past 30 years—we can’t teach the same way we taught 30 years ago.

Einstein's Mistakes book cover“Einstein’s Mistakes” (W.W. Norton, 2008) by Hans C. Ohanian

This book reveals all the mistakes Einstein made, his bad personality traits, and the interpersonal disasters he created. But it caused me to like him a lot more. He wasn’t the greatest mathematician, and he made a lot of mistakes. And the fact that human progress can be so affected by someone with those traits is an optimistic story in the end. You don’t have to be perfect to make significant contributions to humanity.

Read a profile of Dean Gilligan in Texas, the McCombs School of Business magazine.