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Backing Brilliance

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Photos by Coral von Zumwalt

Published Jul 1, 2014 8:00 AM


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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FINANCE

Avanidhar Subrahmanyam Ph.D. ’90 says there is so much more to finance than just mathematics. “Behavioral finance helps us better understand mistakes people make in investing, which in turn sheds light on how those mistakes can be rectified,” says Subrahmanyam, the professor of finance who holds the Goldyne and Irwin Hearsh Chair in Money and Banking at UCLA Anderson School of Management. “It is the nonquantitative, human aspects of finance that fascinate me.”

Subrahmanyam, who is best known around campus and in academic circles simply as “Subra,” was appointed in 2005 to the Hearsh chair, which was established in 1982. Goldyne and Irwin Hearsh’s vision was to encourage scholarship in finance and applied economics. At that time, the field was gaining prominence in management education. Today, the study of banking and financial markets continues to be of great importance at UCLA Anderson and at other leading schools.

Irwin Hearsh, who graduated from UCLA in 1934 with a degree in economics, founded Hearsh Brothers, which grew, packaged, transported and wholesaled produce. During his professional career, he also served as president of Old 395 Corporation, a real estate investment company; as a founding director of Manufacturers Bank; and as a director of Republic Indemnity Company of America. He also developed and owned the Rainbow Canyon Golf Resort, now known as Temecula Creek Inn Golf Resort. He passed away in 1986; his wife, Goldyne, died in 2013.

Subrahmanyam never met the Hearshes but is quick to acknowledge his gratitude for their foresight. The chair’s focus has evolved over three decades to embrace research into many timely subjects, including the use of psychological principles to explain stock-price movements as well as events and behavioral patterns that result in financial phenomena, such as spikes in gasoline prices and the effect of war on the stock market. “The chair has helped me tremendously,” he says. “My research has pioneered the notion that financial markets may be driven by nonrational considerations.”

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Awards and children’s artwork hang charmingly askew in the office of Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, whose interests lie in the nonquantitative, human aspects of finance.

Recently, he used funds to travel to Indonesia, where he gave the keynote address on financial markets and the macroeconomy at an inaugural professional society conference. He credits the talk with helping popularize finance in a geographic region of strategic interest.

But his real reward is working with students. “One of my students is forming an investment company based on emerging market stock that uses behavior research I taught in class,” he says. “Other students now have active research agendas at universities across the country. This makes me very proud.”

— M.S.

HISTORY COMES ALIVE

Although they never met, Willeke Wendrich and the late Joan Malloy Silsbee ’53 shared a kindred passion: a love of Africa and its rich history. And because of that mutual affection, the two are closely linked today. Wendrich, a professor of Egyptian archaeology and digital humanities, holds the Joan Silsbee Chair of African Cultural Archaeology in the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

“I immediately felt a connection when I learned that Joan was a well-traveled woman with a passion for archaeology,” says Wendrich, who received her Ph.D. in Egyptian archaeology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “This endowment has made a huge difference in my scholarship.”

A leading Egyptologist, Wendrich conducts excavations in the country’s ancient landscape. There, with a large international team of archaeologists and 15 students, Wendrich looks for clues to the important role of agriculture throughout history. What was the first evidence that agriculture existed in prehistoric Egypt? How was agriculture developed and used in political power plays during the Greco-Roman period?

“This gift not only enables me to organize these excavations, but also provides the funding support needed to help me maintain other important projects,” says Wendrich, who is editor-in-chief of the online UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology and leads several online research projects. One, called the Digital Karnak Project, is an online resource that makes the temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak — an ancient complex that reflects the religious and political history of Egypt — more accessible to scholars, students and the general public. A large part of the Silsbee endowment enables her to involve both graduate and undergraduate students.

This fall, Wendrich and a graduate student will visit Ethiopia, where they will contact local universities and government organizations and talk to the local population to understand their way of life and their link to the past. In the future, Wendrich hopes to conduct an excavation and survey project in Ethiopia with a large science component.

It is research that Silsbee, who made numerous trips to Africa in her lifetime, would undoubtedly embrace. “I think she would be so pleased to know that because of her endowment, we can expand our work further into eastern Africa,” says Wendrich. “Through this important archaeological work, students learn collaboration and intercultural understanding — and history is made tangible.”

— Patty Park ’91

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