Richard Briesch (1960-2018)
Richard Briesch was a gentleman scholar and a mentor. In scholarship, he epitomized rigor and relevance. As a mentor, he was enormously caring and generous. As an academic, he was versatile. And through his life, he demonstrated that professional excellence was possible even as one served as a devoted parent and/or a community citizen.
Rick is an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon (BS), Rice University (MBA) and Northwestern University (Ph.D.) He taught at New York University, The University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University. At the time of his death, Rick was Corrigan Research Professor and Professor of Marketing at Southern Methodist University.
Rick worked in the technology sector after his BS, and he started an entrepreneurial venture between his academic stints. Accordingly, relevance of a topic and the methodology was always in his consideration of research questions and apposite analytical tools.
Of his scholarship, Robert (Bob) Blattberg -- Rick’s doctoral adviser -- who was then a distinguished professor at Northwestern University (after two decades at University of Chicago as chaired professor) and now the Timothy W. McGuire Distinguished Service Professor of Marketing at Carnegie Mellon University has this to say, “He was technically sophisticated, highly knowledgeable about relevant research streams and creative in how he thought about research problems.” Lakshman Krishnamurthi, A. Montgomery Ward Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University, speaks to the great confidence that he placed in Rick’s intellect and insights, “I have the greatest respect for Rick, and he served as the outside examiner on two of my Ph.D. student dissertations. His intellect was obvious with his training in mathematics and statistics.”
Raj Sethuraman, Harold Simmons Chair in Marketing, and a colleague of Rick recalls Rick’s versatility in depth thus, “It is very rare to see an academic who excels in all three major dimensions – Research, Teaching, and Service. Professor Richard Briesch (Rick) was one such person in the marketing department at the Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University. On the research front, Rick was an incisive thinker and modeler in the area of consumer choice. Experts have called him a leading researcher and a global thought leader. Having worked with him as a co-author on two papers and discussing several others, I can vouch for that statement. Rick was a good teacher overall but, the Dean of the MBA program and I were most appreciative of Rick teaching a special remedial section for students who are weak in statistics. Rick was compassionate, empathetic, and had a unique ability to meet students at their level and guide them towards understanding the basics. As chair of marketing department recruiting committee and as chair of the MSBA curriculum advisory committee, Rick delivered on his service quietly and efficiently.”
Lakshman is proud of Rick’s 1997 publication, an important contribution on reference price models (“A Comparative Analysis Reference Price Models,” Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 24 (2), p. 202-214). Lakshman has this to say, “S. P. Raj, Tridib Mazumadar, both from Syracuse, and I worked with Rick on a paper investigating reference price models. This paper has stood the test of time well.”
Gurumuthy Kalyanaram (GK), a student of and colleague and co-author with Frank Bass, and a doctoral alumnus of MIT has this to say, " Lakshman is right. That 1977 paper truly has stood the test of time very well. Rick's wok in reference price and promotions was very impactful. For my 1994 Journal of Consumer Research paper with John Little and my 1995 Marketing Science paper with Russ Winer on empirical generalizations on reference price, latitude of price acceptance and asymmetric price response, Rick's work was foundational." G.K. recollects sorrowfully, “I knew Rick well, but I had lost touch with him. When I was composing a manuscript (Behavioral Response to Price: Data-based Insights and Future Research for Retailing) with Russ Winer for a Special Issue (Data-based Insights) of Journal of Retailing, I referred extensively to Rick’s 1977 paper. I then asked myself what else has Rick published lately in this area. It is this search for Rick’s impactful work that led me to the discovery that Rick had gone home to rest. I was so sorrowed. I learned that Rick’s death was sudden, it certainly was untimely.”
Rick’s other important contribution was his 1995 paper on promotions coauthored with Bob and Edward Fox (“How Promotions Work?” Marketing Science, Volume 14 (3), p. 122-132.)
Rick’s collegiality and mentorship was remarkable. Bob Blattberg recalls this fondly, “As an academic, he worked religiously on new research ideas, assisted colleagues both in their own research and provided help and advice on their careers. He mentored a number of colleagues at SMU and did all he could to assist them so they could succeed including providing advice and assistance on how to get tenure.
Rick was a forerunner in the cause of balancing work and life. He showed us how to excel in professional life and be that fulsome and loving parent. Bob Blattberg brings this to our attention so poignantly, “Rick personified an ideal academic and parent. As a parent, he raised two sons as a single parent. He did this as a PhD student (in early 1990s) and as a faculty member. No small task.”
As Raj explains, a versatile academic is rare and precious. “In the game of cricket (a British sport - very popular among its former colonies), we call someone an “all-rounder” if he/she can bat, bowl, and field quite well. In baseball parlance, such a person would be a great pitcher, batter, and a performer on the field. Such persons, who excel in all three dimensions of the sport, are rare to come by!” Rick was such an all-rounder in academe.
What was the secret to Rick’s success? Bob identifies this important element, “He always was willing to provide whatever was required to finish a (research) project.”
Known for his “calm, sweet personality” (Raj), Rick is much missed by his colleagues and the community. Bob: “We lost a wonderful human being, and I will forever miss Rick.” Lakshman: “I am deeply saddened by the loss.” Raj: “His sudden demise was a tragic loss.”
Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.)
Dated: September 2021