A CONVERSATION WITH EUGENE F. FAMA
Booth: You earned a PhD and an MBA from Booth in 1964, and
joined the faculty in 1963. What is it about this place that has kept
you here for more than 50 years?
Eugene F. Fama: This is a very interactive environment, and it has
the quality of making you do work that you couldn’t do on your own.
For example, I spent 18 months in Europe and wrote a lot of papers
there. When I came back, I showed them to
told me to throw away about half of them. I realized I had wasted a
lot of time that I could have saved if I had received feedback before
I was deep into those papers.
That’s what a good environment does, and I think this environment
is more interactive than that of any other business school. That’s
the main benefit of coming to a place like this—to get rough-and-
tumble feedback on your work so that you improve it.
Booth: When you were a student in our PhD Program, who were
some professors who helped shape you?
Fama: Merton Miller and
, primarily. When I was doing
my thesis, Mert was my thesis supervisor, along with Harry. That’s
when you really start learning—when you have to sit down and write
Harry Roberts was a big influence on me. He believed that models
exist only for you to organize your thinking about things, and that
you shouldn’t really take them seriously. He also believed that you
do data analysis to learn from it, but that there is no such thing
as “true” or “false”; it’s always some place in between.
Data can never completely answer any question you have—you have
to be doing data description the whole time. If you look at what I’ve
done in my own research, I pretty much follow that line.
Booth: What was it like working with Merton Miller?
Fama: He is one of the few people I’ve met over my lifetime who
could cause you to think totally differently about something. He
would give you all kinds of time if you were a student or fellow
faculty member. He was always pretty gentle with his comments to
students. With colleagues, that was a different story.
Booth: What’s your advice to a person who is considering applying
to our PhD Program?
Fama: Try to figure out soon whether you really want to spend your
life doing research, because at Booth that’s what you’re being
“I think this environment is more
interactive than that of any other
business school. That’s the main
benefit of coming to a place like this—
to get rough-and-tumble feedback on
your work so that you improve it.”