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Obituary: Professor Richard C. Green

Leading Financial Economist, and Devoted Educator and Researcher at the Tepper School of Business

Rick Green

Carnegie Mellon University professor and former senior associate dean Richard C. Green, whose intellect and affability earned him respect as a teacher, researcher and leader at the Tepper School of Business and one of the presiding financial economists of his generation, died Oct. 9 at home in Pittsburgh from an aggressive form of cancer. He was 62.

His research created an enduring impact on the field, from corporate finance to personal finance to asset pricing. Widely published and steeped in a wide range of financial topics, Green served as an associate editor, co-editor or editor at five different journals, including the editorship of the internationally esteemed Journal of Finance. He came to Carnegie Mellon in 1982, and served in such university positions as the head of the Tepper School Ph.D. program (2003-08), Associate Dean for Research (2008-09), and Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research (2009-14).
He was awarded the Richard M. and Margaret S. Cyert Chair in 1999.

It was clear to me from the first time I met Rick in the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin that he was someone special – exceptional intellect, friendly personality and a wonderful sense of humor,” said Robert Dammon, dean of the Tepper School and professor of financial economics. “Throughout his career, Rick was an outstanding researcher and teacher, but also a dedicated colleague and friend to so many of us who had the good fortune to know him personally.  

“His impact and contributions to the field of finance, the Tepper School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon University are significant and will be long-lasting. He will be deeply missed.”

Green, reared in Arizona, made his way east all because of academia, from a bachelor’s in English at Pomona (Calif.) College to a master’s in business and Ph.D. in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Green started at Carnegie Mellon as an assistant professor in what was then the Graduate School of Industrial Administration. He became associate professor in 1987 and professor in 1990. His work took him around the globe: to the University of British Columbia, Union Bank of Finland, Stockholm School of Economics and Norwegian Finance Institute. He also served in visiting professor roles from the universities of Utah to Texas to Virginia.

He was heralded as the only financial economist to serve as president of all three of the leading scholarly societies in the field: the Western Finance Association, American Finance Association and Society for Financial Studies. His two-year term as president of the Society for Financial Studies was the most recent such position, ending in July 2014. Green also served on the board of directors and as a research associate in asset pricing for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the nation’s leading nonprofit economic research organization, founded in 1920.

Along with co-author Jonathan Berk, now of Stanford University, Green produced a transformative study in the Journal of Political Economy in 2004. The paper fundamentally altered the professional understanding of mutual fund markets and managers. Their study found that successful fund managers attracted clientele by outperforming markets, but their success was short-lived; those new clients generally saw sub-par earnings. Green remarked later of that study, “It is particularly satisfying when you write a paper that very quickly alters the way people see and approach a problem by changing conventional wisdom. If this happens once in your career, you are very happy.”

Green won numerous honors throughout his career. His research awards included two Smith Breeden Prizes for Distinguished Paper in the Journal of Finance, three awards from the Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance Q-Group for research advancing the practice of global investment management and the TIAA-CREF Paul Samuelson Award for Outstanding Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. Tepper School MBA students in 1996 selected him for the George Leland Bach Teaching Award.

Green was an influential and inspirational advisor of doctoral students. An avid fly fisherman, he often introduced colleagues and doctoral students to hidden corners of the Youghiogheny River.

"Rick was our Ph.D. program for a time," said Burton Hollifield, head of the Tepper School Undergraduate Business Program and a doctoral student under Green. "He was excellent at determining what were people's strongpoints and helped to direct them onto their careers. He wound up as most students' thesis advisor.

"To a person, everyone will tell you that Rick's greatest characteristic was his directness and ability to give you straight talk. Whether it was advising you as a doctoral student or you were colleagues running together through Frick Park, he would cut  to the heart of the matter and tell you, 'Burton, you should do this...'"

Green is survived by: his wife, Stephanie, and two daughters, Emily of Pittsburgh and Julia of Oakland, Calif., and a sister, Karen Hobson, of Tucson, Ariz. Services will be private. A remembrance of his professional life will be held at Carnegie Mellon at a later date.