Andrew Ainslie

ANDREW AINSLIE (1959 – 2022)

Andrew Ainslie was a distinguished scholar, an institution-builder, and a global citizen who lived with purpose and passion.  Appositely, Donald Morrison (Don), Distinguished Professor (Emeritus), University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) calls Andrew “a larger-than-life handsome man

Andrew was a true global citizen.  Andrew was born in South Africa, and lived most of his youthful years in Zimbabwe, but he also spent some time in Brazil.  He studied for one year at Warrick University (UK) after which he moved to complete a degree in Electrical Engineering and his MBA from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Andrew got his doctoral degree in Marketing and Statistics from the University of Chicago, and served as professor and dean at Cornell, UCLA, and University of Rochester.

Andrew was an impactful scholar.  It all started when he was in the MBA program.  When he returned to the University of Cape Town to get his MBA, Andrew met Leyland Pitt. Leyland found him to be one of the brightest students and encouraged him to get his Ph.D. Andrew was always up for learning something new and joined the University of Chicago Ph.D. program in his thirties, later than most students. He loved his time there because Chicago had a rich and demanding intellectual environment.  He was a classmate of Xavier Dreze, one of his lifelong friends.

Andrew’s contributions to scholarship and practice are very significant.  His contributions to understanding and modeling consumer heterogeneity is fundamental.  Here, Andrew examined carefully on how consumers differ not only in their brand preferences but in their responsiveness to marketing variables such as price and advertising.

There is no better scholar than Peter Rossi (Peter), James A. Collins Chair in Management, Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Economics and Statistics at UCLA to assess Andrew’s scholarly contributions.  Peter has this critical review.  Andrew made two very important contributions to the literature on consumer heterogeneity. First, Andrew pointed out that preferences are more likely to be consumer-specific than product category specific. For example, a consumer who is observed to be highly price sensitive in one or more product categories is also likely to be price sensitive in other categories.  He was the first to implement an error components model which decomposes the variation in consumer preferences into a consumer and product category specific components. He went on to apply this idea to documenting the degree of state dependence across categories as well as new product diffusion paths across both product categories and countries. Second, Andrew recognized that the standard hierarchical model for heterogeneity that is employed with both observed and hypothetical choice data is typically formulated in a way not consistent with the theory of preference functions. That is, utility/preference functions are not strictly comparable across consumers as each consumer has a unique and different scale and origin for utility.  However, if you transform to the money metric by normalizing with respect to the marginal utility of money, then consumers are comparable, and it would be more reasonable to formulate a hierarchical model in that parameter space.”

Thomas J. Steenburgh (Tom), Richard S. Reynolds Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean for the Residential MBA Program at University of Virginia speaks to additional insights from Andrew’s research work.  “Andrew developed the idea of a massively categorical variable, a variable such as a ZIP code that can take many values. A useful application of this idea can be found in direct marketing, where individual-level data are sometimes masked through aggregation to protect consumers' privacy. Andrew showed that the ZIP codes contain valuable information about consumers that can be used in direct marketing campaigns, presumably because "birds of a feather flock together." Thus, we might be able to protect consumers' privacy through masking without destroying all the value of the data.”

Andrew was an outstanding teacher and mentor.  The students looked up to him. Don captures this beautifully – how Andrew combined empathy with rigorous standards.  Andrew was also a professor with high standards for his students. Andrew received good student evaluations, but that was not his goal. If the class or an individual student was unprepared, Andrew did not hold back.”

Garrett Paul Sonnier (Garrett), Associate Professor and Zale Corporation Centennial Fellow at The University of Texas and a doctoral student of Andrew recalls poignantly Andrew’s care, commitment, and diligence in mentorship of doctoral and research students, and the MBA students.  Once I arrived at UCLA, I saw first-hand Andrew’s dedication to the PhD program.  He taught a PhD seminar in Bayesian statistics, which was an enormously valuable course for doctoral students.  However, Andrew went far beyond simply teaching a doctoral seminar.  Using his own research funds, he purchased textbooks for a PhD library and a high-speed computing station for doctoral research.  He was always available for meetings with students, even graciously offering his home as a meeting place on numerous occasions.  He was an incredible mentor to me and many other PhD students at UCLA…. He was also a fierce advocate for the MBA degree and its return on investment for students.”

Andrew was an institution-builder.  His contributions to UCLA and Simon School at University of Rochester were particularly notable.  He served as the Associate Dean at UCLA and as the Dean of Simon School.  Don recollects this of Andrew’s leadership at UCLA, “Andrew played a major administrative role at Anderson. While he was Associate Dean for Student Affairs, he greatly upgraded the cap stone “field study” program that all full time MBA students had to do. I can say this with personal experience. Our two daughters are full time MBA graduates, classes of 1994 and 1995. Their field study experiences paled in comparison to what Andrew created.”

And then at Rochester, he recast the Simon School in very material ways. Let us listen to what the Simon School’s In-Memoriam tribute has to say, “Andrew Ainslie was a keen strategist and an astute marketer. His deeply ambitious strategic plan aimed to see Simon make a dramatic climb in the business school rankings while also reducing tuition costs. He succeeded in achieving both.  On the curriculum side, he led Simon to become the first business school in the US to gain full STEM designation, for which we were named Poets and Quants Program of the Year. He also manifested his vision of a strong digital presence for our school.”

Tom summarizes Andrew’s leadership thus, “He delighted in making bold moves to help the school regain its prominence.”  Garrett identifies attributes that made Andrew a great institution-builder. “Andrew was conversant in a stunningly broad array of topics.  His biggest and brightest passion was for people.” 

Andrew was more than a scholar, a professor, and an institution-builder. He was a man with as much passion and zest for life as he was purposeful.  Andrew exemplified his passion in his life as he did in his death.

His colleagues and friends speak to this so poignantly.  Tom recollects thus, “Andrew was curious and restless by nature. He would get into something and learn everything he could about it. But once he figured out what he liked and didn't like, he would stop and move on to something else. It didn't matter whether it was flying, diving, making bread or cappuccino, building a stereo system, or working on research projects.”  Don remembers this so vividly, “In 1986, I was invited to give a talk at the University of Chicago. I had the great good fortune to have lunch and spend additional time with Xavier Dreze and Andrew. These two even as PhD students knew how to enjoy life and make others share their joy. The most memorable thing that I remember is that Xavier and Andrew formed an UNDERWATER HOCKEY group. A standard hockey puck was on the bottom of the pool and the players dove to the bottom and tried to push the puck into the goal. This underwater hockey story illustrates just what an interesting person Andrew was.” Garrett says this effusively, “Andrew was a renaissance man in every sense of the word.  He loved to solve problems and overcome challenges in myriad forms. He touched the lives of so many students, colleagues and friends and left us all better for having known him.”

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (GK), a colleague and a fellow academic, recollects relatively recent conversations.  “I was composing the profile of Xavier.  In this connection, I reached out to Andrew. We went back and forth.  All this was in 2021.  Andrew was monumentally helpful and responsive, kind and generous, and timely and thoughtful.  A man of immense energies and contributions, he was a quiet presence but a strong one.  Always.”


Tom and Peter summarize so eloquently the man that Andrew was. Tom has this recollection of Andrew’s generosity and noble instincts. “I admired Andrew's generosity. He was always giving Ph.D. students books or helping them learn something new. Andrew taught me how to build a computer, giving me many spare parts, which he would pull from various cardboard boxes strewn about his house. Andrew always let me present our work at conferences and was a ceaseless advocate for my career. Andrew would selflessly promote me even for jobs even when he was interested in them. It was never a competition.”


And Peter tells us what a renaissance man that Andrew was.  “Andrew’s impact was more than simply via his intellectual contributions.  A warm, engaged, and enthusiastic soul, Andrew made fast friendships across a wide spectrum of both academic, diving, and flying communities. Andrew drew much from life but was equally happy and thrilled at the achievements of others both professionally but more so in living life largely.”


Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (GK)

January 2023