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COVER STORY
Merton Miller Remembered

Merton Miller filled many roles--teacher, mentor, adviser, colleague, Nobel laureate--and influenced and inspired individuals around the world. Here, Miller’s colleagues, admirers, former students, and friends recall the man and his lasting legacy.

role model and adviser
miller and studentMiller left a lasting impact on the students he taught and advised--and not just because of his brilliant scholarship. “Mert was obviously a great scholar and one of the best economists ever. He was also a wonderful role model for doctoral students, many of whom later became prominent scholars in their own right. His love of life, his sense of humor, and his intolerance for vacuous thought are all legendary,” said Richard Roll, Ph.D. ’68, a finance professor at the UCLA business school. “A little anecdote reveals, however, that sometimes he made forecasting errors: In 1968, he told many of us in the Ph.D. program at Chicago that everything had already been discovered in finance and that we should consider going into another field! Of course, he himself proved that forecast wrong with many later research contributions.”

 

teacher of past and future generations
miller and groupMiller was an admired teacher whose work will continue to influence students who never had the privilege of sitting in his classroom. Nobel laureate Myron S. Scholes, Ph.D. ’70, recalled his former teacher. “Merton Miller was the Leonardo da Vinci of financial economics. His genius defined the field,” said Scholes, who also worked as a research assistant for Miller. “Merton was a visionary, a man of intense curiosity, with a willingness to embrace ambiguity and use his brilliant intuition to overturn a multitude of long-held ‘truths’ throughout his career. He has created a new body of research knowledge that he has gifted to generations of students, colleagues, and practitioners.”

 

nobel laureate
William F. Sharpe, Miller’s corecipient of the 1990 Nobel Prize, remembered his coauthor’s “phenomenal” intellect. “There is no doubt that Merton Miller is the miller at board father of modern corporate finance. His research was seminal. He taught generations of researchers directly as well as indirectly through his writings,” said Sharpe, professor of finance emeritus at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. “He was a tireless advocate for straight thinking that proceeds from first principles. Merton never accepted conventional wisdom. Instead, he questioned everything, subjecting every proposition to the power of his phenomenal intellect. Personally, Merton was scrappy, feisty, yet totally approachable and a delight. He also had a wonderful and wicked sense of humor. He understood free markets, their power, and the effects of their operations and defended them against all comers. Miller’s influence on both the theory and practice of finance was profound.”

 

family man
Friend and colleague Eugene F. Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor ofmiller and katherine Finance, recalled of Miller’s family: “Mert’s first wife, Eleanor, a lovely woman who gave him three daughters, died in 1969. My wife, Sally, and I were saddened to see such a wonderful, witty man without a partner to share his love for life. We were thrilled when he courted and married Katherine Dusak, one of our best Ph.D. students at that time and an effervescent young woman who, for nearly 30 years, was Mert’s perfect complement.”

“Merton Miller Remembered” continued

Related Stories:

A Tribute to Merton Miller
Eugene Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, pays tribute to Merton Miller.

Merton Miller: A Giant of Modern Finance
Miller’s colleagues, friends, and former students recall the man and his lifetime of achievements.

A Lifetime of Achievement
An overview of Merton Miller’s professional achievements.

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