Fred Zufryden

Fred Zufryden (1943-2008) 

Fred Zufryden was a distinguished scholar, mentor, and institution builder.  He held the the Ernest W. Hahn Chair Professorship in Marketing at the Marshall School of Business, the University of Southern California until his passing after a long battle with cancer, at the age of 64.

Fred came to the United States from France as a teenager. He got his Bachelor’s, MBA, and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles before making USC his home for teaching, research, and mentorship.

Fred’s intellectual contributions were scholarly and insightful.  He deepened the empirical and modeling knowledge of marketing instruments and their impact on consumer choice and preferences. This research earned him several “best paper” awards and special recognition as a leading contributor to the marketing literature by the American Marketing Association.  Discussing Fred’s research contribution, Gerard Tellis -- who was recruited by Fred to USC and who is now the Neely Professor of American Enterprise at USC, and a Fellow of the INFORMS Society for Marketing Science and American Marketing Association – recollects this, “Fred did pioneering quantitative research in a variety of marketing topics including website design, movie life cycles, media scheduling, and promotion optimizing.”

Fred loved teaching and was a visionary in this area.  He saw the need for MBA students to be more engaged in data analytics and empirics,  encouraging the MBA curriculum to offer more substantive courses and learning opportunities in these areas. His wistful and insightful observations in early 2000 led to a plethora of analytical and data science courses across disciplines – Accounting, Finance, and Marketing in the USC Marshall MBA Program.  Students are flocking to these courses as employers set a high value on these skills. Shantanu Dutta, also a recruit of Fred’s, currently the Dave and Jeanne Tappan Professor in Marketing at USC, captures this poignantly in his reflection: “Given his strong training in optimization and linear programming, he introduced those concepts in his MBA classes. I remember Fred telling me that he wished the MBA students in marketing would realize the importance of data and analytics in their decision-making. Little did Fred know that he was way ahead of his time. If Fred were alive today, he would feel vindicated to see that the vast majority of business leaders recognize the importance of business analytics. And large numbers of marketing students are taking analytics classes.”
Mentorship and institution building are synergistic activities.  They complement and build on each other.  Fred excelled here.  His contributions were deep and sustained.  Fred had an uncanny ability to identify potentially high impactful young scholars. As a result, USC’s marketing department is a leading place for learning and research. USC and the community owe Fred a deep debt of gratitude for this.  Again, Fred’s two recruits, Gerard Tellis and Shantanu Dutta, both highly innovative, thoughtful, and celebrated in the community remember him with gratitude. Shantanu says, “Fred Zufryden interviewed me at USC and was a very caring and thoughtful mentor when I joined the marketing department. Fred provided helpful feedback on my papers.”  Gerry’s personal and poignant recollection is, “His entire career was at the marketing department at the USC Marshall School of Business, which he led and transformed from a consulting to a research department. His first tenured hire was Gerry Tellis in 1989. From then on, USC Marshall began to build the quant group, which today numbers 13 quant marketing faculty. He once mentioned, “the best thing I ever did for USC was to hire Gerry Tellis.”

What kind of a person was Fred?  G. K. Kalyanaram, a fellow academic, who got to know Fred through conferences and his work on market response models recollects, “Fred was curious, gentle, kind, open, sensitive, and always under-stated.  He was a gentleman scholar.  His love for and recognition of the importance of analytics in understanding business/marketing phenomena made him a worthy colleague of the early founders of marketing science – Frank Bass, John Little, Dave Montgomery Don Morrison and more.”

Given his interests and engagement, Fred was “one of the founding members of the Marketing Science community,” says Gerry who recounts Fred’s immense contribution in this domain. “Fred chaired the 5th Marketing Science Conference at USC in 1983. He is best remembered for giving the short and sweet name, ‘Marketing Science Conference’ (MSC). Prior to that it was known as the ‘Conference on Market Measurement and Analysis.’ Under that name, it was held at Stanford (1979), UT Austin (1980), NYU (1981), and Wharton (1982).  Fred was also USC Marshall’s very first quant hire in marketing.”

These tributes speak to the remarkable man that Fred was. Shantanu recalls, “Fred was kind, soft spoken and thoughtful and I always felt that I could speak my mind, even though I knew that we may not agree. It was a pleasure working with him on departmental initiatives. Rest in peace, Fred. We miss you.” Gerry adds, “Despite his impact on the discipline, the best thing about Fred was his personality. He was modest, dignified, and loyal. He always kept his cool, however hot the environment got. Best of all, he never spoke an ill word about anyone, even about those whom he knew spoke ill of him. It was a pleasure working with him on papers and departmental activities. Rest in peace Fred. We miss you.”  And this from Mike Kamins who was a professor colleague at USC and co-author with Fred, “If you want to mention who are the top general marketing guys, you mention Fred Zufryden. He was extremely honest and extremely loyal. When I needed someone to talk to or to bounce ideas off, he was always there.”

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (GK) 
May 2022