Finance Friday – August 5, 2016

The Man Behind the Index


Many of you have seen the Case-Shiller home price index cited in the media, and some of you might know a bit about Robert Shiller, who won the Nobel Prize a few years ago.

The other half of the index duo, Chip Case, passed away last week.  It’s one of the great good fortunes of my life that Chip agreed to be my economics advisor at Wellesley, after I took his intro to statistics class (thus ensuring that I would never be hoodwinked by the difference between median and mean). This was right around the time that the Case-Shiller index was launched, and I loved that my very own professor had demonstrated that we could use data to show a different view of a familiar situation, to answer different, important questions. A few years later, as a brand-new junior housing analyst at Fidelity, I felt a great boost of confidence, knowing that I’d been taught by the real live Case of the Case-Shiller Index.

Of course it was super to be taught by a professor who was so well-regarded in his field. But let me tell you what was much more important. When I wanted to be an econ major, long past the time when I should have already figured that out, my dean said it was too late. My classmates said it was too late. My other professors said it was too late. But Chip seriously reviewed my plan, asked some pointed questions, looked me in the eye, and said, “you can do this”. So I did. Three minutes of real attention and four words of encouragement from a professor I admired and trusted changed the trajectory of my studies, my career, my life.

Thank you, Chip, for inspiring decades of students and colleagues with both your brain and your heart.

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