Kalyan Raman

Kalyan Raman (1958-2021)

Kalyan Raman will be remembered as a remarkable scholar, as a man with an intellect that was at once far-ranging and piercing, and as a wonderful colleague and dear friend. Kalyan earned a PhD in Management Science Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, and a Master’s Degree in Statistics from the University of Madras, India.  In the field of marketing, Kalyan specialized in the optimization of marketing decision problems with long-term and uncertain consequences—specifically in the areas of integrated marketing communications and the marketing mix.                                                                                           

At the time of his death, Kalyan held the following appointments at Northwestern University:  Professor of Integrated Marketing Communications, Medill School of Journalism; Professor of Marketing, Department of Integrated Marketing and Communications, McCormick School of Engineering; and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, and as an affiliated professor with the Kellogg School of Management.  He had previously served on the business school faculties of Loughborough University, University of Michigan at Flint, the University of Florida, and Auburn University. 

How do Kalyan’s colleagues, and friends remember him and assess his contributions? “Deep and elegant work,” “a beautiful mind,” “creative,” “remarkable scientist,” “novel approach to problems,” “always cheerful” and more.  Ram Rao, Kalyan’s co-advisor and Founders Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas, marvels at Kalyan’s intellect, “What turned him on of course was a puzzle, a puzzle that at the core had a mathematical idea. It is true that he is arguably the youngest both in age and tenure to have qualified for candidacy at the Statistics Department at Purdue University, no mean feat. So, when he chose to pursue marketing, it was a gift to the field. He did not fall short. His work is deep and elegant." 

Dipak Jain, a fellow doctoral student at UT Dallas and former Dean of Kellogg School of Management, “Kalyan in true sense can be characterized as a “beautiful mind”. I had the pleasure of working with him on a couple of research projects. Interacting with Kalyan was a great learning experience. It clearly reflected his creativity combined with profound insights.”  Murali Mantrala, a friend, colleague, peer and co-author, and now Ned Fleming Professor at University of Kansas, “He was not only a wonderful and gentle friend but also a person with a 'beautiful mind' and polymath (with a PhD in Marketing and a second one in medical science) who made important contributions to marketing science in the domains of dynamic stochastic models of advertising, pricing, and integrated marketing communications (IMC).”  Prasad Naik, a colleague and co-author who became a friend like so many others, “Kalyan was a truly remarkable scientist with a sense of humor, curiosity, imagination, and mathematical talent.”

Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.), a student and colleague of and co-author with Frank Bass, notes, "Kalyan was staggeringly gifted in conceptualization of problems and designing novel solutions. He applied these formidable skills to addressing many marketing phenomena including the operationalization of a reference price and assessing effectiveness of advertising campaigns."

Here are some facts that speak to Kalyan’s breath of tastes, and eclecticism. Much later in his life, Kalyan went on to complete (in 2012) his second doctoral degree.  This one in Electrical Engineering from Wayne State University.  His dissertation, here, was focused on brain and signal in neuroscience.  With Feinberg School of Medicine Professor Hans Breiter Kalyan co-founded the Collaborative Neuromarketing Group at Northwestern. Not surprisingly, the Feinberg School of Medicine discovered Kalyan as one of their own.  Kalyan’s very impressive analytical and statistical skills were a natural fit for the McCormick Engineering School’s Analytics Program.  Kalyan’s first doctoral degree was in Management Science, and subsequent research and teaching were in the business schools and addressed business/marketing phenomena. So, the affiliation with Kellogg was organic.  For his contributions, Kalyan was named in 2014 as recipient of the Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship by Northwestern University. In the fields of engineering and medicine, as described in the announcement of the award of the ver Steeg Research Fellowship, he “created a mathematical algorithm called a nonlinear feedback controller to automatically regulate the intracranial pressure which, when implemented in a medical device called a shunt, could potentially revolutionize neuroscience.”

Hao Ying, Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Wayne University and Kalyan’s doctoral adviser, was impressed with Kalyan’s creativity, commitment, and passion. “Kalyan Raman, an energetic scholar with great creativity and achievements and a wonderful friend of mine, was one of the brightest people that I knew. He was motivated to apply electrical engineering techniques to solve health problems. He was a person with resolve and managed to overcome all the logistical challenges in order to fulfill Wayne State’s 90-credit-hour degree requirement for his second Ph.D. study between 2002 and 2011 while working full-time as a professor. His dissertation “Processing Random Signals in Neuroscience, Electrical Engineering and Operations Research” linked three seemingly unrelated fields in a novel way, and he did so single-handedly. He has not only left his legacy in academia, but also touched everyone he worked with.” 

Kalyan was a globalist, a global scholar.  He taught for four years at Loughborough University in UK.  Over the years, he also had substantial visiting appointments in many European Universities including the University of Munster, Germany, University of Kiel, Germany, WHU Koblenz, Germany, and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.  Kalyan spoke German language as if he were a native.  Sönke Albers, Professor of Marketing and Innovation at Kühne Logistics University and Dean of Fellows elected by The European Marketing Academy, speaks to Kalyan’s love for Germany, his cheerful disposition, and his formidable analytical skills, “I was impressed by Kalyan's enthusiasm for Germany, his very good knowledge of the language and the culture. He visited me often in Hamburg and Kiel and he was always cheerful and interested in new things. And with his deep mathematical skills it was fun to collaborate with him on a joint article.” 

GK met Kalyan and got to know Kalyan in 1983 when GK took Frank Bass’ Marketing Models course as a non-credit student at UT Dallas. Since then, they have been friends over decades.  Kalyan wrote to GK with palpable excitement in early fall 2016 about his international travels and commitments, “I had a couple of pretty productive years, so the Dean has given me the whole year off and I don't teach till January 2017. I plan to spend about four months in Fall in Belgium and Germany working on projects with my coauthors there.”

Friends and colleagues remember Kalyan as someone “who left too early but who lived every moment of his life fully” (Ram Rao); “whose intellectual vibrations will continue to be ‘music to our ears’” (Dipak Jain); “who touched everyone he worked with” (Hao Ying); and whose untimely death “is a tragedy and a great loss” (Murali and Prasad.)

GK offers this, “Kalyan was a renaissance man who lived his life joyfully with child-like curiosity and innocence always discovering and exploring. He lived life to the full measure – he probably realized also in full measure that this journey is after all transient in the end.  He was a mensch.” 

John Norton, a fellow doctoral student at UT Dallas and a former professor at University of Virginia and now retired, captures in this touching reflection the measure of the man that Kalyan was, if not fully but substantially. “He was also brilliant in some ways and as innocent as a baby duck in others.  I once showed him a problem out of our econometrics text.  He read it, and said, “Ooh, that’s a good one.  For that you would need a theorem.  Hmm.  I can’t remember it.  Let me derive it.”  (There followed about 45 seconds of furious scribbling.)  “Ah, there it is.  See with this (one line of matrix math), you can get this (another line), and then this (third line and QED).  (Puffs on a cigarette.)  Wanna go get a cheeseburger?”  Months later, when confronted by a very serious Frank Bass who told him to enter a set of data in a computer, print it out, and bring the printout to him “today, by this afternoon,” he squeaked, “Data?  Umm, yes, data.  Okay.”  He looked at me in a panic.  Kalyan had a complete disdain for computers, and consequently knew literally nothing about them.  I showed him (1) how to find the computer center, (2) how to get the data entered, as it was on punched cards, (3) how to turn on a terminal (‘see this little switch on the back?’) and (4) use the “print” command.  He quickly got better, though it was years before he took computers seriously.

He was also a witty, funny guy.  I stopped by his little student-sized office one day, and asked him if he’d like to join me and go running.  After a thoughtful drag on his cigarette, he leaned back in his chair and with a look of concern asked, “From what?”  I miss him.”

This poignant recollection of Ram Rao completes it, “Ask anyone who knew Kalyan. And they will tell you they remember his laugh the most. It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t a guffaw, and it didn’t go on and on. It just let you know how Kalyan felt. At that moment. That about also sums up how Kalyan lived his life. He let his presence be known, quietly, clearly and with purpose. He was nothing if not earnest, sincere and genuine in every way. And he capitalized on taking in the present with all its complexity but limited in scope and duration.”


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