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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

Merton Miller

and he

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

Harry Roberts

, 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

a thesis.

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

prepared for.

“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.”

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