Community News

Andris Zoltners, R. Ravi Celebrated

A notable roster of Carnegie Mellon faculty, alumni and staff gathered for a special reception at the Tepper School of Business on September 25, pleased to celebrate the establishment of a significant new faculty chair. They were delighted to honor both donor and recipient, as R. Ravi accepted the Andris A. Zoltners Professorship in Business.

Andris Zoltners, through a generous $2.5 million gift to the Tepper School, endowed the chair in support of excellence in teaching and research in the field of operations research. Zoltners earned his own Ph.D. in operations research at the Tepper School in 1973, then known as the Graduate School of Industrial Administration, and went on to distinguish himself both in academia and business. Ravi, a leading expert in the field, has been a CMU faculty member since 1995 and formerly held the Tepper School’s Carnegie Bosch Professorship of Operations Research and Computer Science.

Tepper School Dean Robert Dammon welcomed those in attendance, who included CMU President Subra Suresh; Provost Mark Kamlet; Zoltners’ doctoral advisor, Egon Balas, the Tepper School’s University Professor of Industrial Administration and Applied Mathematics and Thomas Lord Professor of Operations Research; respected Tepper School faculty members and a host of Ravi’s collaborators and current Ph.D. students.

President Suresh took the podium and remarked on the unique and special nature of the professorship, noting the prominent stature of both the donor and recipient.

“We are very proud and privileged to have this opportunity to celebrate not only the recipient of this chair but also the donor,” said Suresh. “In significant ways, both bring prestige and distinction to this chair, to the Tepper School and to Carnegie Mellon University.”

Dean Dammon then introduced Zoltners, conveying the sincere appreciation of all.

“We thank you for your generous support,” stressed Dammon. “For years, Andy has provided funding for Ph.D. students in operations research here at the Tepper School and recently made the generous gift that established the chair which we are awarding today – support that is vital to attracting and retaining the very best faculty.”

Zoltners then expressed his own gratitude toward the Tepper School and the genesis of his gift.

“There are life events that change your direction,” he explained. “For me personally, one of those significant events was earning my Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon. You could point to my situation as the example for utilizing the training we receive here and ‘snowballing’ it into applications with significance. My hope is that in giving back, I can provide that opportunity for others.”

In 1983, Zoltners co-founded ZS Associates, a global sales and marketing consulting firm recognized for its work in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The company now employs more than 2,000 across 20 offices worldwide. Zoltners is also the Frederic Esser Nemmers Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a faculty member for more than 30 years. Previously, he served on the business school faculty at the University of Massachusetts. He has published more than 40 academic articles, edited two books on marketing models and co-authored a series of books on sales force management.

Among his awards, the Pharmaceutical Management Science Association recently honored Zoltners and his ZS Associates co-founder with the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for their pioneering contributions to management analytics in the pharma and biotech industry. Zoltners was inducted into the Chicago Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame in 2005.

Dammon then introduced Ravi, noting his impact on both academia and the Tepper School.

“Ravi is not only recognized for his significant research contributions in the fields of computer science and operations research but as an exceptional educator and highly-esteemed faculty member,” said Dammon. “In many ways, he is the personification of the culture of this university. His research, mindset and classroom activities all reflect an innate drive for finding solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.”

“Ravi is one of our most interdisciplinary faculty members,” he continued. “In addition to his core work, his wide-ranging academic interests include computational biology, logistics, social networks andauctions. This curiosity and active intellect allow him to take virtually any problem, discover novel results and bring about change.”

Dean Dammon also recognized Ravi’s popularity as a teacher, noting his selection by the MBA class for last year’s George Leland Bach Excellence in Teaching Award and his dedication as a Ph.D. advisor, with a strong record of mentoring and training PhD students across a variety of disciplines.

Ravi then discussed his work and aspirations, thanking Zoltners for his support and noting the value Zoltners brought to the field and the professorship.

“There are very few positions named after an educator of such distinction,” he pointed out.

More specifically, Ravi’s teaching and research interests include models, methods and applications of discrete optimization. He has applied his findings to a wide range of industries including bioinformatics,  telecommunication, automotive and ecommerce, and to companies that include Bosch, Microsoft and Ebay.

Ravi has also been honored with the Tepper School’s 1997 BP Research Chair, the NSF CAREER Award (1996-2000) and the 1994 Sigma Xi Outstanding Graduate Research Prize. He currently participates on the editorial boards of Operations Researchand ACM Transactions on Algorithms and has served on the boards of Management Science, Networks and the Journal of Algorithms.

He has published over 100 papers, some of the most cited in the field. Journals include Combinatorica, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics,  Mathematics of Operations Research, SIAM Journal on Computing, and Games and Economic Behavior.

“In closing,” said Ravi, “I’d like to acknowledge the environment at the Tepper School and CMU that has enabled me to accomplish so much. We have a very strong interdisciplinary culture and I’ve worked with colleagues from nearly every other school across the campus. A celebration of my work is a celebration of this interdisciplinary culture.”