Jorge Mario Silva-Risso

Jorge Mario Silva-Risso (1953-2021)

Jorge Silva was an incisive and insightful scholar.  He was quiet, dignified, and thoughtful.  Jorge was a consummate colleague, gentleman and a superb human being.

Jorge earned his BS from Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay, and his M.B.A and doctoral degrees from University of California at Los Angeles. 

Jorge’s analytical skills were superb, and his ability to conceptualize and communicate were remarkable.  How strong?  Listen to what Donald (Don) Morrison, now Distinguished Professor Emeritus University of California at Los Angeles and co-chair of Jorge’s doctoral dissertation, has to say, “During Jorge's time at UCLA, I was teaching a three-quarter calculus-based probability, statistics, and multivariate statistics sequence. Jorge was so good at working with the students in the class--one being my older daughter.”  

Mike Hanssens, now Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, speaks admiringly and with gratitude of Jorge’s “superb analytical skills.”  “I personally benefited from Jorge’s skills through several coauthored articles that I count among the best in my own research portfolio.

Not surprisingly Jorge proved to be that rare intellect who could move between academe and industry seamlessly, and contribute productively both to theory and practice significantly. He built a “a successful career in both business and academia,” per Mike. Mike for good measure with certitude says, “I cannot think of another marketing science PhD who has been that successful in both academia and industry.”

How successful?  Listen to how Randolph (Randy) Bucklin, now Professor of Marketing and Peter Mullin Chair at UCLA Anderson, and co-chair of Jorge’s doctoral dissertation, describes Jorge’s work and contributions to JD Power.  “There, he worked to develop analytics based on a new type of secondary data the company had begun collecting directly from automotive dealers, a sort of scanner data for cars (known as the Power Information Network). Looking back, the initial placement in industry turned out to serve Jorge very well. It gave him access to novel data for his continuing academic research and enabled him to elevate his eventual impact on both academia and practice. Of the long series of very interesting and impactful papers to come from these data, Jorge and I co-authored one with Siddarth (Sivaramakrishnan, now Associate Professor at University of Southern California) on the effects of distribution intensity on new car sales; the findings to emerge from that research simply would not have been possible without Jorge’s work and the JD Power data.” 

Siddarth amplifies this, "We first started working on adapting Bayesian marketing mix models based on scanner panel data to the automobile industry, which raised several implementation concerns including how to handle having only one observation per customer, rather than relatively long purchase histories, how to incorporate measures of price and promotion changes and deal with the leasing, financing and outright cash purchases and the many forms of promotion that prevailed in the auto industry. This early work and thinking made its way into his consulting practice and, ultimately, into his practice prize winning paper published in Marketing Science."

Jorge’s work at JD Power was also deeply admired by academe, and that made his move to a Professorial position organic.  Mike captures elegantly, “Jorge’s marketing science work in the automobile industry at J.D. Power was first rate and led to numerous invitations to present results at the nation’s premier auto makers. Better yet, he used the high-quality JD Power database to produce some path braking publications in the top academic journals in marketing. That, of course, contributed to a successful professorial career at the University of California, Riverside.” 

Jorge’s placement at JD Power serendipitously brought Don (Morrison) and JD Power together in mid-1990s after 30 years. Don: “It was also very interesting to me. A summer an intern at Ford Motor Company in the early 60s I met JD (Dave) Power. It was good to reconnect with him again."

After almost 7 years at JD Power, Jorge joined the faculty at University of California at Riverside with strong scholarly credentials.  In his recommendation to UC Riverside in 2003, Randy spoke with such fulsome confidence that it reads a bit rhetorical. But Jorge’s contributions since his joining faculty made that rhetoric a reality in substantial measure. If Jorge only had the gift of a robust health (he was afflicted with an ailment as early as in 2010, seven years after joining academe), he would have redeemed Randy’s rhetoric in full measure.  Randy recollects, “In that letter, I predicted, “If the history of marketing science were to be written say, 15-20 years from now, my bet would be that Jorge would play a starring role.  I say this for two reasons: (1) impact on research, and (2) impact on industry.” Randy had already assessed Jorge’s doctoral dissertation to be very substantial and impactful. “He wrote a terrific dissertation on the difficult problem of optimizing promotion calendars for packaged goods, which went on to be published and continues to be cited. I believe his experience in rigorously modeling promotions paid big dividends in his subsequent work in the automotive industry.” 

Jorge was a man of great empathy, and collaborative spirit.  Siddarth observes, "Jorge really was an exceedingly generous person always willing to share his precious time and domain knowledge with me and my students. He served on the Ph.D. committees of several of my students including Srabana Dasgupta, Ohjin Kwon and Dinakar Jayarajan and was a co-author on several papers that emerged from this work. It was a great pleasure to work with him and Randy on what is one of my favorite papers that measured the impact of distribution intensity on new car choices."

The full measure of a human being is best measured in how she/he responds to adversity.  Here, Jorge was inspiring and incredible.  Though he was afflicted with a serious ailment which impaired him in many ways, including his speech, he poured himself into being productive.  Don recollects poignantly and touchingly, “As the years went along Jorge has increasing difficulty in speaking. What followed was nothing short of amazing. Jorge did not give up. He was able to let a computer talk for him. His teaching ratings stayed high.  Sure, the delivery of the concepts was not as smooth as if he had his full voice. However, the students knew how hard Jorge was working to deliver a good product and they appreciated it so much.” 

Jorge’s family and friends and colleagues witnessed the toll of the ailment on Jorge with much sorrow and longing but also with a sense of amazement at Jorge’s resilience and positive disposition.  Here are Don and Mike describing in personal and moving description the scene at Jorge’s son’s wedding.  Don: “The last time I saw Jorge was at his older son Alejandro's wedding in Solvang, CA. That was many years ago. As my wife Sherie and I were leaving we embraced the family. Jorge's eyes showed how much he appreciated our attending the event, but no words came from his mouth. That was more than ten years before Jorge stopped teaching.” Mike: “My wife and I fondly remember the wedding celebration for his son in Solvang. At that time, Jorge’s speech was already affected by the rare and incurable medical condition he faced, but he never complained nor let it affect his superb hosting of this important event.”

Siddarth who along with his family "became close friends" and spent "many hours" with Jorge and his family speaks with such compassion for Jorge's debilitating condition, and wonderment at Jorge's strength, The last few years were particularly difficult to watch, as his illness progressed and he found it more and more difficult to find the words to express what he wanted to say. But even up to the last time I met him on his 68th birthday celebration his eyes and face never failed to light up in recognition when he saw me. I will always remember him as a warm, friendly, optimistic, kind-hearted and helpful person.  He was a real gem among gems."

Colleagues, friends and acquaintances remember Jorge to be kind, generous and large-hearted.  Here are reflections from three academic colleagues.  Florian Zettelmeyer, Nancy L. Ertle Professor of Marketing at Northwestern university and a co-author, “I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that my professional success is based on his leap of faith to share data with me and to work with me. Jorge was an incredibly generous and kind collaborator and friend. I will miss him terribly.” G.K. Kalyanaram, a fellow academic and an acquaintance from the conferences, “Jorge always exuded calm, dignity elegance, and a sense of purpose.  He took the time with everyone and conversed with genuine attention and interest.” Fred Feinberg, Joseph Handleman Professor of Marketing and Professor of Statistics, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor: Jorge was always collegial, warm, gracious, yet a consummate professional and scholar. I'll never forget him or his way with people.”

Celebrated as a “mensch” (Don), as a “kind, patient and wise colleague” (Mike), and whose “star in marketing science burns bright” (Randy), Jorge will be a remembered as much for his nobility as for his intellect.

 Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.)
Dated: October 2021