Timothy (Tim) J. Gilbride (1966-2019)
Timothy (Tim) J. Gilbride was a respected scholar who was sought after by his colleagues for collaborative work, a beloved teacher/professor, and a universally admired human being.
At the time of this death, Tim was the Steven and Anne Odland Associate Professor at Notre Dame University. His research focused on the application of Bayesian statistical methods to investigate marketing problems, particularly in the areas of consumer choice, modeling heterogeneity, and managerial decision models. Tim received his B.S. from University of Dayton, and his M.B.A and Ph.D. from Ohio State University. Notre Dame was his home for research and teaching.
Greg Allenby, Helen C. Kurtz Chair Professor of Marketing and Professor of Statistics at Ohio State University, and the doctoral adviser of Tim summarizes Tim’s research contributions elegantly thus, “I served at Tim's thesis advisor and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Tim's second year paper at Ohio State was entitled "A Choice Model with Conjunctive, Disjunctive and Compensatory Screening Rules," which was published in Marketing Science in 2004. This paper has more than 500 Google citations and established a new way of modeling consideration sets using models with hard cutoffs. Prior to that, a separate model of consideration and choice were used that lead to probabilistic, or soft cutoffs. While the presence of hard cutoffs required a more complex estimator, it also allowed for a variety of cutoff measures as described in the paper's title. Tim and I went on to publish a total of seven papers together that were published in Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Research, Quantitative Marketing and Economics, and Marketing Letters.”
Referring to the inspired eclecticism and impact of Tim’s paper on screening rules ("A Choice Model with Conjunctive, Disjunctive and Compensatory Screening Rules,") Carl Mela, now T. Austin Finch Foundation Professor at Duke University, describes how this paper captured the arc of extant contributions and offered new insights. “It’s a remarkable piece of research that serves as a nexus between historical and future research themes as well and behavioral and quantitative themes. In the 1970s and 1980s, one of the most prominent streams of research was choice architecture. More recently, consideration set models have attracted greater interest owing to their link with economic principles of search. By linking choice architecture to consideration set formation, Tim connects these topics. Moreover, the modeling of consideration set formation via behavioral screening rules enriches both literatures.
Tim’s colleagues in the community sought his counsel and partnership in their research projects. Because Tim was one of the best scholars in application of Bayesian statistical methods, and because he was such a caring and thoughtful fellow colleague. Here is a specific instance of fellow scholars reaching out to Tim. Imran Currim, now a Distinguished Professor at University of California at Irvine, S. Siddharth, now Associate Professor at University of Southern California, and Ofer Mintz, now a senior lecturer at University of Technology at Sydney were empirically examining how consumers sequentially assess at product-attribute information at the point of sale. They wanted to build a structural Bayesian model, and they needed help. Who did they reach out? Tim, of course. Why? Because Tim was one of the best technically and a marvelous human being. How substantial was Tim’s contribution to the research? This much: the contributions were so significant that the other three scholars made Tim the lead author of the manuscript. That work resulted in a publication a few years after Tim’s death (Timothy Gilbride, Imran Currim, Ofer Mintz, Sivaramakrishnan Siddarth (2016) "A Model for Inferring Market Preferences from Online Retail Product Information Metrices," Journal of Retailing (92), 470-485.) Remarkably, the reach of Tim’s collaborative work has been felt as recently as this year (Ofer Mintz, Timothy J. Gilbride, Peter Lenk, Imran S. Currim, The right metrics for marketing-mix decisions, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Volume 38, Issue 1, 2021, Pages 32-49.)
Imran says Tim was “extra-ordinarily skilled at what he did.” And Ofer is expansive in this recollection, “Professional-wise, his ability was unparalleled. He’d come up with solutions and econometric ideas that always amazed me. I seriously had no idea how he came up with some of these solutions, and he is one of the few people who blew me away because of his skillset. For one of our papers, I remember Siddarth mentioned that Tim came up with a heavy-duty, bazooka-like solution to blow away a reviewer requesting some minor changes to the paper.”
Teaching was a passion and commitment for Tim. He cared deeply and loved the opportunity to shape young thinkers. How deep was Tim’s commitment to teaching? Listen to what Patrick Murphy, now Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame and a colleague of Tim has to say, “Tim's many teaching (including Sunday office hours) and research contributions to Notre Dame and his walks around campus where the conversation and fellowship were very memorable.” And Shankar Ganesan, The John Cardinal O’Hara Professor at Notre Dame, has this poignant observation: Tim sometimes scheduled his surgeries (Tim was diagnosed with stage IV cancer) around his classes so his students would not miss out on anything.) For his excellence in teaching, Tim was named one of the TOP 50 Undergraduate Professors in November by Poets & Quants. Tim was also recognized with the James Dincolo teaching award in the Department of Marketing, the Outstanding Professor of the Year in the Traditional MBA program, and the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the University of Notre Dame.
Calling Tim “one of the most well-rounded people that I’ve ever met,” John Sherry, now (emeritus) Herrick Professor at Notre Dame and a colleague of Tim speaks admiringly, “In our field, we look at teaching, research, and service as your principal contributions to the field and the College, and he was just outstanding on all these dimensions.” Amplifying John’s reflections, William (Bill) Wilkie, now Aloysius and Eleanor Nathe Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame and a (former) colleague of Tim, affirms, “Tim was such an influential voice in the department and a grounding presence.”
Tim was an intellectual: eclectic and curious, and learning and teaching, always. Greg’s reflection speaks to this. “What I liked most about my interactions with Tim was the frankness with which we would examine a problem. We told each other what we thought without worrying about filtering our comments. This resulted in a process where "iron sharpened iron" that I believe was responsible for the high quality of our papers together. This frankness overflowed into our personal interactions where we examined differences in our faith traditions – Catholicism and Protestantism. I recall many great discussions with Tim about this.”
Tim was a marvelous human being: purposeful, philosophical, reflective, and dedicated to his students, colleagues and community. Co-authors and colleagues, and friends and casual acquaintances have vibrantly collegial and kind reflections.
Here are some reflections on his collegiality. Carl: “Tim, as a scholar and colleague, helped to bring those around him together and was respected by all.” Imran: “Tim was an absolute delight to work with. Tim’s passing away is not just a loss to us but to the entire community of Marketing Science and Marketing scholars worldwide.”
We often understand the full measure of a human being when she/he is confronted with a challenge. Here, Tim is nothing less than noble.
Tim was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in 2011. He, as did his family and colleagues, recognized the grimness of the situation. How did Tim handle all this? In 2014, Tim wrote an essay titled “The Mathematics of Hope” (https://bizmagazine.nd.edu/issues/2014/spring-2014/the-mathematics-of-hope/) in which he described the impact his cancer diagnosis had on his Catholic faith. “I have been overwhelmed by the love and support from my family, friends and colleagues,” Tim wrote in the essay. “I have come to appreciate the Mass and celebrating the Eucharist, the communion of believers, in a way that I could not understand before my cancer.” relentless positivity affected everyone. Michael Etzel, now Professor Emeritus at Notre Dame University and a colleague of Tim, recalls this he “would go to Tim’s office to comfort him only to leave comforted by Tim.” And Carl speaks of “relentless positivity” of Tim.
More than anything else, Tim loved his family – his wife and three children. He was a generous-spirited husband, and a large-hearted and loving father. And Tim lived his zestfully – always. He never gave up.
Bill recalls, “Tim’s wife and his three children were an important part of his life, and he was always seeking a balance between work and family.” And Greg has more on how Tim crafted that magical balance, “Tim was a father of three children while he was a doctoral student, Henry, Helen and Hope. His wife, Teresa, commented at one point that his doctoral studies was the most difficult time of their marriage because he spent so much time studying and thinking about his research. I suspect many spouses and significant others feel this way, and Tim knew it was true but he struggled to balance the sacrifices made by his family while he was a student.”
Here is Shankar on Tim’s commitment to teaching in the midst of treatments and surgeries, “Tim remained committed to his work during chemotherapy treatments and shortly after surgeries, even developing a new marketing course on “Big Data and Marketing.” In his last email, before he took the leave of absence, he wrote that he needed someone to help him code in R as he was finding it challenging to write the code due to problems with his eyesight.”
Here is John on Tim’s deep love for his hobby and his passion for motorcycles, and how combined them for a vibrant life, “It got to the point where he couldn’t ride the bike anymore, but he’d always had this dream of doing a cross-country trip, and he got in the car one summer and just did it, various family members accompanying him on different legs of the trip.”
Shankar sums up his feeling – and he sums up eloquently the community’s feeling, “I conclude with a quote from Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert Pirsig, “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” Tim personified that quote. His decency, sincerity and kindness will stay with us forever.”
Tim was gifted with deep intellect, eclectic tastes, a caring and empathetic demeanor, and a reflective personality. He made significant contributions, and made all over lives better. We would have all (e.g., as would have the composer of this profile, G.K. Kalyanaram) been so much better and our lives more enriched if Tim had also enjoyed the gift of longevity.
Gurumurthy Kalyanaram (G.K.)
Dated: October 2021