Saturday, June 1, 2013

Obituary

Ross Miller 1954-2013
photo credit:  Mark Schmidt-UAlbany
Ross Miller died, unexpectedly but peacefully, in his sleep at his home in Niskayuna on May 20, 2013, leaving behind his wife of almost 34 years, Mary O'Keeffe, two daughters, Alison and Catherine Miller, a sister, Dr. Dinah Miller of Baltimore, and a large extended family, many friends, colleagues, students, and mentors. 

A pioneer in the fields of experimental economics, artificial intelligence, and computer-aided financial analysis, he worked in both industry and academia, winning awards for his innovative teaching and financial research inventions from Boston University, General Electric R&D, and the University at Albany. Since 2004, he has been Clinical Professor of Finance at UAlbany, where he taught students in the MBA and Financial Analyst Honors programs.  Fascinated by the inner workings of financial markets from an early age, he investigated financial frauds and deceptive practices and analyzed alternative market trading rules to avoid speculative bubbles and financial disasters.   

His book What Went Wrong at Enron spent months on the New York Times business paperback best seller list in 2002. Other books, Computer-Aided Financial Analysis and Paving Wall Street: Experimental Economics and the Quest for the Perfect Market received praise from both academics and industry practitioners, and have been translated into Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Korean. His research articles since 2005 have shined a light on excessive hidden fees charged by financial institutions. The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, CNBC, and the New York Times have highlighted his work, which has contributed to some industry reforms.   

Born January 6, 1954 in Greenville, South Carolina, Ross was the son of the late Rabbi Milton Gerald ("Jerry") and Sara Stein Miller. Following a few years in Greenville and in Memphis, Tennessee, where his father was active in the civil rights movement, the family moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey.  After graduating from Elizabeth public schools, he studied math, computer science, and economics at Caltech and Harvard, working with many distinguished scholars, especially  Charles Plott and Vernon Smith, his lifelong mentors and collaborators in his seminal undergraduate research project.  While at Harvard, he met his future wife, with whom he founded a consulting side business, Miller Risk Advisors, which they ran together.   

Throughout his 59 years, he was a lover of learning and a creative and tenacious problem solver with a wonderful sense of humor, filling the family home with joy and laughter.  His gift for cheerleading and inspiring others to believe in themselves and not to give up in the face of daunting challenges--whether his students, his wife, or their two homeschooled daughters--has left a remarkable legacy. 

Memorial Celebrations will be held in July.   Memorial contributions can be made to the Summer Program in Mathematical Problem Solving  or to the YWCA of Northeastern NY   More information will be shared at RossMillerMemorial.blogspot.com.

What is written above is the obituary that appeared in the print editions of the Albany Times Union and Daily Gazette on June 3.  I am trying to preserve and piece together as many memories as possible, by going through photos and documents left behind and reading some of his prolific writings, especially his occasional commentary series, which you can find at this link.

I am writing a series of essays with photos about his life.  There is a draft of a first one about his early years in this post.  There will be more on later years on this blog. I am grateful for anyone who would like share memories.  You can comment on this blog or  reach me to share privately at mathcircle@gmail.com. 


Ross was the love of my life.  We met in September 1975, at the beginning of graduate school, both of us age 21.  We married in July 1979.  We were not just husband and wife, but partners in virtually everything we did together.   I miss him more than words can say. 

15 comments:

  1. A beautiful tribute to a deep and loving man. His legacy lives in his children who have his eyes, his brains, his love of learning and his ability to see the world form a different perspective. Thank you for sharing a bit of his depth with us. Sending you all much love and healing.

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  2. I would like to be one of the first to post of my love and appreciation of Ross, my son-in-law. From our first meeting on Thanksgiving 1976, in Cambridge, I saw a fine and sensitive man. I only grew in admiration of his many faceted personality. Mostly I was impressed with his love and caring for his family especially Meg and Alison and Catherine. I cherish the times when he and I were able to have time for personal conversations. His understanding and humor always seemed to shine through. I only have happy memories of Ross and may he rest in peace.
    Mary G. O'Keeffe

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    1. Thanks, Mom, for sharing your beautiful memories of Ross. He was very grateful to you and Dad for being such terrific parents and raising me.

      Just to help prevent confusion for anyone who doesn't know, there are three women named Mary O'Keeffe in our family.

      Mary G. O'Keeffe is my mother (and Ross's mother-in-law)

      Mary Margaret O'Keeffe is my name (Ross's wife) and my family calls me "Meg" to distinguish me from my mother

      Mary Margaret O'Keeffe is also the name of my niece (daughter of my brother Rick O'Keeffe), who goes by the nickname of "Maggie."

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    2. Also, it appears that apostrophes give blogspot indigestion. Such is life!

      This recalls a funny story about the IRS apparently getting indigestion from the apostrophe in my name and deciding that we were not married. It took some correspondence to straighten the matter out that year. Since that year, we decided to stop using the apostrophe in my name on our tax return and have had no problems since then.

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  3. I never met Ross face to face; rather, I was on an email list with him, discussing markets and economics. He was always so generous with his intellect and his knowledge that even I managed to learn a lot from him. And now I am reading your appreciation of him and feeling very, very sad indeed that I did not get the chance to know him better, personally. May you all be filled with warm memories and love for him and each other.

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  4. I am heartbroken by this terrible news.

    Ross and I struck up a years long friendship, originally introduced by Vic Niederhoffer.

    I will have more to say later about this truly great man.

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  5. A beautiful tribute. While I never met Ross my friendship with Dinah and David has given my wife and me some insight into what an amazing and talented man he was. Our thoughts are with you all in this great loss.

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  6. Thank you for making this memorial for Ross, whose intelligence and humor always went together to make learning fun...even though I was never his student, I always felt I felt I understood economics and the world better after a conversation with Ross. A unique and caring man, devoted to his family. I look forward to reading more as you have time to write.

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  7. as always, Mary, you write beautifully and from the heart. this is a touching tribute to Ross. i can't imagine what you and the girls must be going through right now. i think of you every day. much love, linda

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  8. Mary, I am so sorry for your loss. This is terrible news. Talking with Ross was always a high point for me when he attended the Spec Parties that Victor Niederhoffer and I used to hold in New York. I will miss his great sense of irony. You both were inspirations to me when I was deciding whether to homeschool Aubrey. Thank you for posting these links.

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  9. Dear Mary,
    I am a friend of Amy's and she told me about Ross and how helpful you have been to her in time of need. Thank you for this lovely portrait of someone I didn't get a chance to know. My sympathies go out to you and your family.

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  10. Dear Mary,

    my name is Hari Iyer and had studied finance under Ross in 2006 and 2007. It was one of the best classes I had taken during my SUNY MBA college days. I used to look forward to his classes and was in decent touch when I moved to Boston and when I was working with Deloitte. I also used to regularly read the articles posted on Rigged online.

    I was shocked to hear the news of his passing away – I didn’t know until yesterday when I happened to visit the SUNY Albany webpage. I’ll certainly say a prayer for him. I however won’t forget his attention to details and the effort he used to take while teaching as well as provide real-life examples including having us watch the movie Wall Street to better understand the finance market intricacies.

    Please accept my heartfelt condolences and take care during these tough times.

    Sincerely,

    Hari.

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  11. I thought I would come visit the blog today. It has been a very long 6 months. With Love...

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  12. I think about Ross a lot. And, I will always remember him as a wonderful husband and father. We were all blessed to have him in our family. Ross enriched our lives.
    Love always,

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  13. From Ross's Uncle, Roy:
    I would like to complement you on your revised comments on my brother's, Jerry's, early life before and after he went to Guatemala for his health.
    Jerry was 3-and-a-half years my senior, and my 9 year old memory is not very good and coupled with my 87 year old senility renders it even less competent.
    Educationally, our lives were very different. Jerry was a good and serious student who, with my mother's and father's help, went on to college after his military service. I, on the other hand, quit school at 16 and went to work, and went into army at 18. Simply put, I was something of a bum, and Jerry an intellectual (I did eventually go on to college after the army simply because the army paid for it and received a B.S. at Syracuse University).
    Jerry and I were very different types. The only thing we both had in common were loving and caring parents (Rose and Willie) when we grew up. And Jerry later became a loving, caring father to Ross and Dinah.
    I do have one other thing to share with you. I married an Irish girl from the Bronx at 35 and lost her to cancer about 12 years ago. It was a good and loving marriage. I remarried a year ago to an American Taiwanese girl, Mei, whom I love (She is a nurse case manager by profession which is also a plus at 87). Mei and I are deeply sorry for your loss, and would love to have you and your daughters visit us in NYC .
    Love, Mei and Roy.

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