Booth Gift Elevates the Credibility of Our Aspiration
Image by Karen Carter Lynch
To all our Alumni, Students, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,
With the sustaining support of the largest gift to any business school in history—and the largest gift to our university—we are taking the momentous step of renaming our school: The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
This decision, ratified by the trustees with my full personal support, affirms without qualification what we stand for and responds dramatically to our highest aspiration: to be the best business school in the world and be recognized as such.
In this special edition of the magazine, you will learn about the extraordinary generosity of the Booth family and the compelling entrepreneurial career of David Booth, ’71. You will learn that in David, we have a person who embodies Chicago values and who has had a long and fruitful relationship with members of our faculty. In this letter, I can’t fully express the deep gratitude I feel toward David and his family. But what I must try to explain to our community is the simplicity of their intention. There is no new design for our school. Instead, David simply offers support for what we are and a wish for yet more.
David started out as a doctoral student of Gene Fama, one of the most cited economists in the world. But rather than continue with the plan to return to his home state of Kansas for an academic career, he decided to apply his training to the real world. After founding Dimensional Fund Advisors in 1981 with Rex Sinquefield, ’72, David leveraged his Chicago education and the ongoing flow of ideas from the GSB to develop strategies for Dimensional that were grounded in the efficient markets hypothesis but that also allowed Dimensional to outperform other so-called passive investment funds. As the conceptualist and philosophical leader of Dimensional, over the last 27 years David has sought out visionary ideas of Chicago faculty, especially Gene Fama, but also others, including Ken French, Myron Scholes, Abbie Smith, George Constantinides, Jack Gould, and the late Merton Miller and Jim Lorie.
But make no mistake: David did more than translate academic journals. He is an extraordinary business leader with entrepreneurial vision. Those close to him have recognized his ability to market cutting-edge ideas in the fiercest of competitive environments and his uniqueness as a financial thought leader—in particular his ability to leverage new ideas to meet the needs of investors. As a result, Dimensional has done what no other investment fund has done: remain true to the core idea that equity markets should be evaluated in terms of equilibria characterized by efficiency in the practical sense and yet find ways to consistently outperform relevant indices, year after year.
As dean, I am in a unique position to recognize the importance of this gift. Putting aside that its value is orders of magnitude larger than all other gifts to business schools, this comes at the right time in our history. The unrestricted support from David and his family will help ensure that we build the best faculty in the world, now and in the future, and that we will have the flexibility to lead and be bold. We will become a yet stronger business force for all who engage it.
There is no new design for our school. Instead, David simply offers support for what we are and a wish for yet more.
With this gift, I believe that the credibility of our aspiration to be the best moves to a significantly higher level. While the consensus view not many years ago was that our goal to be the best felt distant, that view is changing. We have momentum on all fronts. Our faculty is stronger, demand for our programs has grown, our facilities are without peer, and, most important, we are recognized among business schools for our unique role in improving business performance and strengthening the market-oriented economies around the world. This recognition is due to the combination of the world-changing ideas developed by our faculty and the leadership contributions of our alumni in all sectors, in all functions, in all parts of the globe. With our progress, many in our community believe that our goal is indeed achievable.
The Booth gift, an extraordinary expression of support, especially given the current turmoil in the world’s financial systems, will move us significantly toward our objective of being among the top three business schools in terms of resources. Will it get us there by itself? No. But it is a huge step toward that objective, and, as David has expressed to me, “will encourage other alumni to give back to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.”
I also look forward to the opportunity to use the renaming of the school to address the uneven nature of our brand name-capital. Some in our community will miss referring to “the GSB,” but the fact is that we could never establish such a generic term as “Graduate School of Business” as our identity. We will, of course, maintain Chicago as a component of our identity given our place within the university. But we will go forward with a new name with which we can a build an identity that has no geographic limitations. In sum, the Booth gift provides the school with a perfectly timed opportunity to move aggressively forward, capitalize on our current momentum, and compete more effectively against schools with greater resources, in terms of both financial and brand name capital.
As suggested at the outset, I am struck by the uniqueness of David’s intentions. Other naming gifts were intended to establish a business school, shore up a problem, or fundamentally change a school. By contrast, this gift affirms who we are, encourages us to move further on our path, and to be guided by our values. We can, with this support, accelerate our progress for the benefit of our community and society.
My hopes going forward for all of us, not surprisingly, are no different than before. I want our students to experience Chicago Booth. I want our faculty to have freedom to do great work. Our two-part strategy will remain the same: (1) strengthen our values, which we share with the University of Chicago, and (2) get yet better aligned around relationships that matter. Our intentions will remain the same. We will maintain the integrity of our school and work hard so that many talented people will want to join what will henceforth be the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Edward A. Snyder, Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics