Jonathan Spector, vice dean for executive education at the Wharton School since 2004, yesterday was named president and chief executive officer of the Conference Board, the global-research and business-strategy organization.

He will oversee 16 offices that do work in 67 countries, measuring consumer confidence and other leading economic indicators. In recent years, the board expanded its role to include research and problem-solving initiatives on ethics, diversity and strategy issues in business.

"Jon is bright, worldly, experienced and skilled at working with people," Douglas R. Conant, chief executive of Campbell Soup Co. and chairman of the Conference Board search committee, said in a statement released with the announcement. "His work experiences as a CEO, a global consultant, and as vice dean of the Wharton School have perfectly prepared him for this new role."

For Spector, 50, the new job will mean a shorter commute from his home in Boston.

The new job "is an opportunity to engage CEOs of companies around the world" in meeting challenges facing business, Spector said in an interview yesterday afternoon. These include assuring that there is a sufficient and culturally diverse supply of workers to meet the needs of the 21st-century economy.

"Risk management, not in a traditional sense, but in a sense of more holistic events that could destroy a company," will be an increasing focus of the Conference Board, Spector said.

Before joining Wharton in 2004, Spector was a principal and director at McKinsey & Co., the management-consulting firm. His duties there included founding and managing the firm's Taipei office and consulting for leading companies in the communications and information-technology industries.

The Conference Board was established in 1916 in response to declining public confidence in business and rising labor unrest, according to its history.

It is best known for its monthly Consumer Confidence Index, which reached a 51/2-year high yesterday.

In the wake of Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc., and other corporation scandals of the last decade, the board took on an intense evaluation of corporate governance "at a time when most business groups wanted to duck the issues," said Richard Cavanaugh, 60, the Conference Board's retiring chief executive.

A panel of top executives found systemic problems in corporate governance at a time when, Cavanaugh said, "most business groups were claiming there was just a bad apple here and there."

In recent years, the Conference Board has also worked to improve workplace diversity. Cavanaugh said the Conference Board was taking several steps to convince global business leaders that diversity was a critical element of corporate strategy and "that you better have people working for you who know the cultures in the marketplace and something about people who buy what you sell."

Cavanaugh, who was on the search committee that reviewed 250 candidates before selecting Spector, said his successor's big challenge was the globalization of business.

"The Conference Board has made great strides in becoming a global enterprise," Cavanaugh said. "Our hope and expectation is that, with his international experience, Jon will take us to the next level."

Contact staff writer Henry J. Holcomb at 215-854-2614 or hholcomb@phillynews.com.