2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Timothy Keiningham, St. John’s University Tobin College of Business

Timothy Keiningham of St. John’s Tobin College of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Timothy Keiningham

J. Donald Kennedy Endowed Chair in E-Commerce and Professor of Marketing

St. John’s University, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business

Indeed, it’s important to be intentional about the people you surround yourself with. They can impact and influence you. In Timothy Keiningham’s case, that became true and led to him becoming a business school professor.

“I would come home from work and listen to my wife (who is also a business school professor) share stories with me about her experiences helping students become who they were born to be,” Keiningham says. “This sounded like the most rewarding career possible. And for me, it has proven to be true.”

Keiningham is a professor of marketing and the J. Donald Kennedy Endowed Chair in E-Commerce at St. John University’s Tobin College of Business. He teaches courses like Analytics for Consumer Insight and Data Driven Marketing. He’s received the American Marketing Association’s Christopher Lovelock Career Contributions to the Services Discipline Award for teaching, research, and service that has had the greatest long-term impact on the development of the services discipline.

Current age: 58

At current institution since what year? 2016

Education: Ph.D.: Staffordshire University (UK), MBA: Vanderbilt University, BA: Kentucky Wesleyan College

List of courses you currently teach: Service Marketing, Analytics for Consumer Insight, Data Driven Marketing, and Marketing Management


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I would come home from work and listen to my wife (who is also a business school professor) share stories with me about her experiences helping students become who they were born to be. This sounded like the most rewarding career possible…and for me, it has proven to be true.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

One of my areas of research currently relates to the relationship between innovation, social innovation, and financial returns.  I expected innovation and social innovation to have an additive effect (i.e. adding social innovation on top of innovation would result in above market returns). But that is not the case.  Innovation is the primary driver of returns.  And social innovation that is not among the very best does not help, it hurts (particularly if it the firm is not among the top firms in innovation).  What this means it that companies need to deliver on their promise to customers in a way that fits their mission, is genuine, and achieves a high level of performance.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… An executive at a market research firm (which was my prior career).  I love uncovering and solving problems, and I have a passion for research.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I always try to remember what a friend, Professor Martin Dominguez Ball, told me about successful teaching. He said, “If the students know that you really care about them, they will come with you.”  I hope that I have been able to demonstrate that to my students in every class.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Butterflies

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:

I wish someone had been able to convince me that I would love this job more than I could ever imagine. I would have become a business school professor sooner.

Professor I most admire and why:

This is a biased answer, but I admire my wife, Lerzan Aksoy (a professor of marketing), the most. I have watched up close the serious concern and genuine love she feels for her students, and her hard work to educate future leaders with a passion and commitment for creating a better world. It is what made me want to be a professor.  And I am still learning from her every single day.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

St. John’s has a wonderfully diverse student body.  When I look at them, I always feel hopeful for the future. The idea that I could positively influence these future leaders genuinely excites me.

What is most challenging?

Not every student has the same economic, social, or physical advantages. Helping students who are experiencing hardships is always challenging, but it is also one of the most important parts of the job.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Enthusiastic

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Apathetic

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…

In a word, fair. But as I tell my students on the first day of every class:

  • The only thing that matters to me is that you learn what you need to succeed in your career.
  • I sincerely care about all of my students equally regardless of their grades in my courses.
  • If you come to class, do your work, do right by your teams, and do good work for your [nonprofit] client, then you will do well in the class.
  • Finally, while I want you to care about your grades, the reality is that they have almost no impact on your success after college, so please don’t obsess over them. (But please don’t use this as an excuse to slack off!)


What are your hobbies?

My almost daily ritual is to exercise (primarily weight training). My real love, however, is song writing and guitar playing (which happens far too infrequently).

How will you spend your summer?

The plan prior to the pandemic was to go to India (for a conference), and later to the Caribbean.  Now it is likely to be much smaller day trips, and LOTS of course redevelopment to be ready for teaching regardless of the external environment.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Cayman Islands and Istanbul

Favorite book(s): The Little Prince

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

Lately it’s the show Schitt’s Creek. The writing, humor, and acting are very well done. I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I do, I want to laugh.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I am a classic rock and modern country listener.  I love the guitars of rock (listening to a lot of The Cult currently).  And country has some of the best songwriters (Phil Vassar being my all-time favorite songwriter).


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… The business school of tomorrow would have much more digitization, applied analytics, and most importantly an emphasis on responsible leadership to address systemic social and environmental issues.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Focusing on metrics that actually link to business outcomes, instead of fad metrics that are easy to measure (and manipulate) but do not lead to sustainable competitive advantage.

I’m grateful for… I am grateful for far too many things to list.  But if I had to pick only one, I am grateful for my beautiful wife (Lerzan) and children (Hana, Sage, and Max). I would be completely lost without my wife—seriously. And my children cause me to work hard to be someone that they would be proud of.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say: 

“It was enthralling to bear witness to what success looks like in its most altruistic form. Dr. K. always had a contagious and endearing smile, which positively impacted morale despite the content of my day. He created a collaborative environment through meaningful projects supporting NPO’s—highlighting the class’s best qualities. Dr. K. helped me understand that my ambition was within reach. He connected each class member with someone in his professional network highlighting the importance of relationship building. This shows his support for the equal opportunities of his students and remains remarkable in my mind. It was from that connection that I received resume consultation and earned substantive relationships, helping to kick start my career at Synchrony. Dr.K’s exemplary academic leadership continuously motivates me to “hunt the good stuff” and authentically pay my success forward. I strongly endorse and urge you to nominate Dr. K for this Poets&Quants recognition.”

“Dr. Timothy Keiningham came into my life over three years ago now. Since then, he has been one of the key players in helping me achieve a level of success I didn’t think was possible. How? Well, he is genuine, passionate, highly intelligent , but most importantly, fully committed to his students and their tangible success. That is why he shines in our hearts. Dr. K believes in you before you believe in you. Do you know what kind of impact this has on a young adult? Well on me, it was critical. As I saw his commitment and dedication to helping us thrive, I was instantly inspired to do everything possible to excel in his classes. During my junior year, I was going through many challenging times in my personal life. My father had just lost the house due to bankruptcy and I was about to be homeless during my fall semester of my junior year. We’ve never been wealthy but my parents worked hard to make sure we had food on the table and an education. My family moved from Ecuador when I was five years old to provide us with a better future- the American dream. I worked multiple jobs throughout the year to support myself and my family when possible. It was during these times that I was finally able to confide to someone about what was going on- Dr. K. At St. Johns, we take part in a service project where we partner with a nonprofit to help them improve their business plan/marketing efforts. The company we worked with during his class was called Small Can Be Big where we were given a family going through a difficult time and helping them raise money along with helping this nonprofit figure out how they can expand their resources. The remarkable moment was when the family my team and I were assigned to was about to loose their home. Once I learned of this, I did everything in my power to help them attain the money needed because I never want anyone to go through what I was going through. And so, I went door to door, business to business raising money to help this family. And we surpassed the goal. Dr. K was extremely proud and during this time he didn’t know anything about what was going on in my own life until I wrote everything out in a reflection paper about this service project. I wanted him to understand why I was so committed and passionate to this family but also it was because of his inspiration in my life. The first day of class, one of the questions he asks every single student is “What do you think you were put on this earth to do? How will you leave the world better than you found it?” And he asks this and remembers every answer because he wants to learn about who we are, what’s important to us, and how he can help us make our dream a reality. After he read my letter, he instantly contacted me to check in on how I am doing and tried to find ways that St. John’s can help my family and I. He went to great lengths for us. We eventually lost our house and moved to another area but I never forget how he was there for me through every single moment. He would even make time for me to speak to me during his office hours and simply listen while providing advice as well. He was the only person that I told- not even my friends or other family members knew. Since then, Dr. K has become a father figure in my life. I have taken over four of his classes and each one of them has helped me with my career. In fact, his class “Analytics for Consumer Insights,” helped me get the job I am currently in because he knew and brought to St. John’s the material that marketing students need to actually get their career started and succeed. I currently work at The NPD Group and I am an account specialist for one of the biggest retailers in the world at 24 years old. I started my full time career before I even graduated and all thanks to his mentoring and his classes. i was going to work during the day 9-5 PM and then classes at night for that entire semester. I started working at NPD on January 7th, 2019. I graduated in May of 2019. Dr. K told me one day to say this mantra and repeat it daily, “Every day in every way I am getting stronger and stronger.” This is from Tony Robbins. Him and I bonded over Tony and he never fails to remind me where Tony started and he believes my impact on this world will be greater than what I simply think I am capable of. However, in order for me to do this, I have to remain strong to do so. That always keeps me going and I always aim to make him proud with everything I do. You know why? Because he says he is betting on me. And after all he has done for me, I refuse to disappoint him or myself. This type of impact happens once in a lifetime. I never fail to thank God for putting him in my life. There have been many other tough and challenging personal moments I have gone through that Dr. K has helped me get through and overcome with his advice and guidance that I don’t want to get into now but all I can say is there is no other person I know more deserving of this than him. There is no one else I have had as a professor so dedicated and committed to his students than him. Ask his students, they’ll tell you about his influence in their lives on all different levels. St. John’s is lucky to have a reputable faculty member like him. He is tirelessly and relentlessly working to make sure St. John’s becomes of one the top business schools in the country and is improving the curriculum every single year for marketing majors. He is teaching us the skillsets we need to enter the workforce and compete against other top students. Finally, you know what is even more phenomenal about Dr. K? He was an EVP at Ipsos for 17 years, running the Loyalty division along other roles. He has published countless papers in the service marketing field and has published New York Times best selling books. He has received the top award for his field and many other distinguished awards. However, he always tells us that the best job and the best move he has ever made was become a professor- and he means it. At the end of every single class he shakes each one of our hands and thanks us for our time. What professor has ever done that before? None that I ever had. This is only the start of who Dr. K is, what his character is about, and what he means to us. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you truly take the time to consider his nomination and make the right decision. No number of awards will ever represent who Dr. K is to myself or to others and how much of an impact he has had on us, but this is a start. He is truly successful because of his heart.”

“Dr. Keiningham is a top scholar in his field: winner of the AMA’s lifetime achievement award for in service marketing; publications in top scholarly journals in marketing; research featured in top textbooks; best paper award from top journals (including one each of the past four years). He was a practitioner before moving to academe – enabling him to bring current, relevant topics to marketing analytics. I have been teaching for 30 yrs and evaluating faculty teaching for 15 yrs. Tim is the most passionate, effective, and creative professor I have ever witnessed at three different schools; he has a lasting impact on his students and his teaching ratings are consistently at the top. A typical comment from a student is: “Dr. Keiningham’s enthusiasm and kindness brightened my entire day, really a wonderful person, always feels good to participate in a class where you know the professor really cares.” I have witnessed his teaching firsthand; It was one of the most inspirational classes that I have ever observed. His ability to engage students at all levels from all backgrounds is remarkable. (We are among the most diverse private schools in the U.S., so we value inclusivity and engagement, as well as academic results.) I recommend him wholeheartedly.”

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