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Stanford Report, January 8, 2003

Ezra Solomon, former Business School professor, dies


Ezra Solomon, who laid the foundation for the modern understanding of financial management with the 1963 publication of his seminal book, The Theory of Financial Management, died of a stroke Dec. 9 at age 82 in his Stanford campus home. A member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Nixon administration, Solomon served industry and government throughout his three-decades-long career on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

"Ezra was an important name in finance in the late fifties and sixties," said James Van Horne, the A. P. Giannini Professor of Banking and Finance at Stanford Business School, who recalled the influence Solomon's book had on corporate finance theory. "In the forties and well into the fifties finance was largely descriptive as taught in most schools. Ezra helped move the field toward a more rigorous theory-based foundation -- a more mathematical expression. Ezra was at the forefront of the evolution in finance." In the latter half of his career, Solomon shifted his focus to macroeconomics, though he never fully relinquished his involvement in the finance group.

From 1965 until the early 1970s, he was the managing editor of Prentice-Hall's book series Foundations of Finance. "Those books had an important influence in both accounting and finance," said Van Horne. "And Ezra as the editor persuaded others, mostly at Stanford, to contribute to the series."

"Ezra had a tremendous impact on several generations of finance scholars and faculty. He touched so many lives," said Robert L. Joss, dean of the Graduate School of Business. Joss, who earned his doctorate at the Business School in 1970, knew Solomon as a teacher and again during his service in the U.S. Treasury Department when Solomon joined the Council of Economic Advisers.

"A lot of people go to Washington and wind up thinking they can give political advice," said former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who is the Business School's Jack Steele Parker Professor of International Economics, Emeritus, and a longtime friend and colleague. "Ezra stuck to economic advice and agreed with the fundamentals. He was a gifted economist with real wit, and had a wonderful, candid, clear way of expressing himself."

Another longtime colleague, Gerald Meier, who is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of International Economics and Policy Analysis, Emeritus, said: "When Ezra came from Chicago to Stanford in the early 1960s, he became a leader in transforming the GSB, which was then a parochial West Coast school, into a world-class academic institution. Until his retirement he lectured almost daily to students, executives or the general public. His lectures cut through to the essence of complex problems; difficult as the subject matter might be, his style with its wit and charm endeared him to so many."

An emeritus member of the finance faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business since 1990, Solomon came to the school in 1961 at the urging of then Dean Ernest Arbuckle to be founding director of the International Center for the Advancement of Management Education (ICAME). Under Solomon's leadership, the center drew faculty from business schools in developing nations for a year of intensive management education. Once the center was firmly established in 1963, Solomon returned to full-time teaching and became the Business School's first Dean Witter Distinguished Professor of Finance, a title he held until his death. He wrote extensively, including 13 books and more than 100 papers.

Solomon was born and raised in Burma. He received a First Class Honors degree in economics from the University of Rangoon in 1940. Soon after his graduation, the Japanese Army occupied Burma and his family found itself trekking across the Chin Hills into India, where he joined the Burma Division of the British Royal Navy. After four years of active service, he was commander of a gunboat when a long-dormant fellowship for overseas graduate study materialized, bringing him to the University of Chicago in 1947 as a Burma State Scholar. While working toward his doctorate at Chicago, he joined the faculty of its Graduate School of Business and was a professor of finance there from 1956 until coming to Stanford.

Well liked by colleagues, alumni and students alike, Solomon was honored by the Stanford University Alumni Association in 1985 with the Richard Lyman Award for distinguished service.

"One of the distinguishing characteristics about Ezra was his voice," recalled George Parker, the Business School's current Dean Witter Professor of Finance and Management, who earned his doctorate at Stanford in 1967 with Solomon as the chair of his dissertation committee. "He had a particular diction and tone to his voice that was typical of some people with his background having grown up in Southeast Asia in an English-speaking family. I remember once commenting to a small group after one of his lectures, 'Don't you agree after listening to Ezra, that if God could speak, that's probably about what he would sound like?' And people said, 'That's absolutely correct.''' Parker added, "Ezra used his tremendous intellect in combination with his distinctive speaking style to be one of the most memorable teachers the GSB has known."

Solomon is survived by five grandchildren and three daughters: Catherine Shan Solomon, Ming Solomon Lovejoy and Lorna Solomon-Oyarce. His wife, Janet, passed away Nov. 14. A memorial service is planned later this winter.

The family asks that contributions in his memory be made to either the Burma-American Fund, 160 West End Ave., Suite 18J, New York, NY 10023, or the Ezra Solomon Faculty Fund, established at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2001 through a gift from Stephen Luczo, Solomon's former student, now chief executive officer of Seagate Technology. Donations should be made payable to Stanford University and may be sent to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Ezra Solomon Fund, 518 Memorial Way, Room 235, Stanford, CA 94305-5015. For further inquiries about the Ezra Solomon Fund, call 723-3356.

Ezra Solomon