Former DuPont Executive New Head of ETS

By David J. Hoff — July 12, 2000 3 min read
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The Educational Testing Service has named a businessman who promises an aggressive growth strategy to be its next president.

Kurt M. Landgraf

Kurt M. Landgraf, a former chief operating office of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., will take the reins of the publisher of the SAT and other admissions tests on Aug. 7. He said he would work to stretch the giant nonprofit organization’s reach into K-12 education, as well as military and corporate testing.

“The most important thing that we must do as an organization is increase revenue,” Mr. Landgraf, 53, said in an interview last week. “I’m not interested in cost cutting as a strategic initiative for this organization.”

The combination of Mr. Landgraf’s management experience, international marketing acumen, and education advocacy made him “an ideal candidate” to be the testing service’s fifth president in its 52-year history, according to A. William Wiggenhorn, the chairman of the ETS board of trustees and the president of Motorola University.

In addition to the SAT, the Princeton, N.J.-based service produces the Graduate Record Examinations, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the PRAXIS test for beginning teachers, and several other exams. It also owns a for-profit subsidiary that specializes in international markets.

The ETS has run operating deficits for much of the past decade as it has invested heavily in computer-based testing and international expansion. That deficit is now under control in the nonprofit’s $456 million annual budget. ( “Testing ETS,” Dec. 1, 1999.)

Mr. Landgraf will replace Nancy S. Cole, who will retire this year after leading the organization for six years.

Business Sense

The selection of a business executive as its next leader demonstrates that the ETS’ priorities lie on the financial side of the ledger, said one of the publisher’s biggest critics.

“Picking someone with some knowledge of international markets makes business sense,” said Monty Neil, the executive director of FairTest, a Cambridge, Mass.-based watchdog group that has long criticized ETS exams as biased against female and minority students.

“There’s a real message about ETS and international marketing,” he said. “There’s no message about making better assessments.”

Mr. Landgraf left DuPont in May when he resigned as the president of its pharmaceutical subsidiary after just five months in the job.

He said he left that position because he was unable to negotiate a marketing partnership with other drug manufacturers.

“It wasn’t unusual that we couldn’t get [such a complex deal] done,” he said last week. He added that he decided to leave because he had failed to reach his main objective when he took the job.

In 20 years with the Wilmington, Del.-based chemical giant, Mr. Landgraf also had been an executive vice president and chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and the chairman of DuPont Europe.

He also served as the vice chairman of the Delaware Business/Public Education Council and attended last fall’s national education summit with other corporate executives, governors, and education leaders.

While the ETS traditionally has focused on tests serving higher education, Mr. Landgraf said he would create a division within the organization to develop tests for the precollegiate market.

“One of my initiatives will be to increase significantly the role ETS plays in the K-12 arena,” he said. “I’m not exactly sure what the products will be,” he said, but he speculated that the ETS might start competing with major test publishers to develop states’ high school exit exams.

Home Again

When Mr. Landgraf moves into the president’s office next month, he will begin his second stint on the bucolic ETS campus. From 1970 through 1974, he was the associate marketing director for the testing service. He left the nonprofit to work for the Upjohn Co., where he stayed for six years.

But the ETS he will return to is different from the one he left. Twenty-six years ago, the testing service concentrated almost exclusively on admissions testing and was largely free from such highly visible critics as FairTest.

“Then, it was an organization that was an important player in college admissions,” Mr. Landgraf said. “Today, ETS is in the middle of a major paradigm shift in American education.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as Former DuPont Executive New Head of ETS


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