Frenkel ter Hostede

Frenkel ter Hostede (1968-2016)

Frenkel ter Hostede was an incisive marketing scientist whose impactful contributions would have even deeper and sustained if only he had the gift of longevity.  Frenkel got his master’s degree in Econometrics from the University of  Groningen in the Netherlands and then his doctoral degree from the University of Wageningen.  After his education in Europe, Frenkel came to the US and served as faculty member in Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Here, we see the beginnings of a remarkable scholar in at least two ways.  First, how Frenkel came to the doctoral program and how he was mentored by two outstanding scholars: Jan-Benedict Steenkamp (JB), Knox Massey Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina and Michel Wedel (Michel), Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland.  Listen to JB and Michel and Michel Wedel (Michel) describe how Frenkel came to the doctoral program. “Frenkel ter Hofstede was a brilliant master’s student of Econometrics at the Department of Econometrics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in 1991-1992. During his study he became very interested in marketing problems. While being Michel Wedel’s RA he already published a Journal of Marketing Research article.  Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, who was at the University of Wageningen at the time, was looking for a PhD student to work on a large international research project funded by the European Union. Michel recommended Frenkel and he was accepted to that position. Jan-Benedict Steenkamp and Michel Wedel were his PhD advisors.”

Second, it was quite uncommon for a European-educated scholar to be recognized by American scholars and universities.  Here, Frenkel excelled all expectations.  JB and Michel have this to say, “Frenkel received his doctorate “summa cum laude” at Wageningen University, a recognition that less than 2% of PhD students receive. Frenkel decided to go on the US job market and with such a stellar record, he did exceptionally well. He ended up accepting an offer from Carnegie Mellon.  After several years, he was sought after by UT and he and his family decided to move to Austin TX.”

Senior researchers from around the world welcomed opportunities to work with Frenkel and he was considered a “prize catch” by competing universities who wished to recruit him.  In 2003, after Frenkel moved to UT to join the marketing department at the McCombs School, a colleague from Yale said, “If we had known he was willing to move, we’d have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse!””

How impactful was Frenkel’s research and intellectual contributions?  Very material, indeed.  JB and Michel assess Frenkel’s contributions thus. “The work that Frenkel did was pathbreaking. His thesis was based on more than a regular PhD project, because it involved the (co) writing of proposals, interacting with companies, and coordination of research conducted at universities across Europe. In rapid succession, Frenkel coauthored papers in the International Journal of Research in Marketing (IJRM), the Journal of Classification (JoC), the Journal of Marketing (JM), the Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), and Marketing Science. He easily mastered a wide range of marketing models and applied them successfully to problems in international marketing. He was the first to apply such rigorous methodology to international market segmentation and his work impacted several major companies. Quite a few of his early papers therefore remain highly cited today. His JMR article on international market segmentation based on consumer-product relations won the 2004 O’Dell award.

Upon his untimely and sudden death, Frenkel’s colleagues [including Andrew Gershoff (Professor), Ty Henderson (Associate Professor), Wayne Hoyer (The James L. Bayless/William S. Farrish Fund Chair for Free Enterprise), Vijay Mahajan (John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business), Leigh McAlister (Ed and Molly Smith Chair in Business Administration), Raghunath Rajagopal (Professor), Raghunath Rao (Associate Professor) and Garrett Sonnier (Assistant Professor) and more] at UT recorded a moving and poignant profile and tribute in 2016.

Frenkel’s colleagues from UT record this assessment of Frenkel’s intellectual contributions with admiration and love.  “Frenkel’s work, which provided new insights and methodology for global market segmentation, quickly earned high acclaim. When Frenkel completed his Ph.D. in 1999 he was highly sought after by the most esteemed Universities and ultimately took his first academic position as an Assistant Professor at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. There he became known as a rising star in marketing academia. Many of his articles were winners, or finalists for, the field’s most prestigious awards. Notably, his work was honored with Journal of Marketing Research William O’Dell Award, which is given to articles that make the most significant long-term contributions to the field.

How effective and engaging a teacher/mentor was Frenkel?  Most of all, he was very caring and persuasive.  Listen to the glowing recollection of his The University of Texas colleagues. “He was an excellent fit with the faculty at UT, and he thrived there.  He continued his impactful research program and was selected for the Business School’s CBA Foundation Research Excellence Award for Assistant Professors and was quickly promoted to the rank of Associate Professor. Frenkel also made a lasting impression on his students as a dedicated, innovative, and enthusiastic teacher.  His courses on marketing research, marketing analytics, and marketing models were some of the most popular in the school among undergraduates, masters, and Ph.D. students.  As a result, Frenkel was often nominated for, and won, numerous teaching awards from both the McCombs School and the University as a whole.”

Frenkel lived a full and zestful life.  He had a wide range of interests growing up, including playing bass guitar in a funk band.  As a young man, he worked as a bartender in a dive bar, and as a waiter, and quickly thereafter as the manager of a Japanese restaurant. Then, in the same year that Dell Computers was started in a University of Texas student’s dorm room, Frankel started a similar entrepreneurial venture building and selling computers from his garage.  As his UT Colleagues wistfully say, “In an alternate universe, he may have even surpassed Dell Computers in commercial success!”

The measure of a human being is in how much she/he gives of herself/himself to his community and family.  By this measure, Frenkel was a mensch.

Frenkel was caring and collegial with students, fellow scholars and teachers, and others.  This is how his colleagues and mentors remember him.  “Frenkel was also a very well-liked member of the marketing department, and he enjoyed extremely close friendships with several members of the faculty and Ph.D. students. He would often socialize with colleagues and friends, and he could be counted on to share his opinions about science and art and music, as well as his contagiously hearty laughter.”

What about his family?  Here, he gave all that he had.  Despite his enormous work ethic and long working hours, “he was dedicated to his family and raising his daughters.” “Of all his achievements, however, Frenkel would be most proud of having been a dedicated and doting father to his daughters.”  After he and his wife separated, Frenkel took on the task of raising his daughters, almost singlehandedly, and he frequently sacrificed his own health and comfort in order to give them the best upbringing he could. Despite juggling so many balls at once, however, he rarely, if ever, complained about his responsibilities.

Here is how Frenkel is remembered, poignantly and with gratitude. 

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (GK), a fellow academic, who knew Frenkel largely through conferences: “Frenkel was accessible, friendly, and outgoing.  He had a great sense of presence.  His self-deprecating humor was reflective of his confidence.  Frenkel’s research work was pioneering and innovative. In his death, Frenkel reminded of the fragility of life and the urgency to our lives and purpose.”

The UT Austin colleagues: “His positive, cheerful, and altruistic demeanor continue to serve as a reminder to those he left behind that one should live life to the fullest, and enjoy the best of it, by doing for others, every day. Although Frenkel died suddenly and prematurely, he packed more in his 48 years on earth than most would in double that time.”

JB and Michel: “Frenkel was open minded, independent, mature, and had a great sense of humor. Many of the people that worked with him came to have a deep appreciation for his sharp mind and his warm personality and became his close friends.”

 Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (GK)

Dated: January 2022