Beyond Academia - Emeritus Finance
Professor's Voice Resonates
Ohio State University and Fisher know a good thing when they find it. For more than 34 years, Fisher has relied on the teaching skills and financial acumen of Stephen A. Buser, PhD, emeritus finance professor. The former chair of Fisher's Department of Finance has a penchant for taking on quiet leadership roles in times of need.
In the late 1990s when Ohio State faced significant budget cuts, he became the first associate dean for fiscal affairs - a position similar to the role of a corporate CFO. He helped facilitate a process to deal with the crisis, using a basic approach to budgeting, and developed alternative new revenue sources. He still teaches when needed, with many of his lectures on the economic crisis viewable on YouTube.
Buser's voice is heard in other high-profile arenas. In 2004, the American Finance Association (AFA) tapped Buser as its historian. His first assignment: chronicle the history of finance, interviewing Nobel laureates and other economics and finance pioneers before they're gone.
"The response to this project has been just phenomenal," says Buser, amazed by the number of web hits and downloads on AFA's site. One key insight he's gleaned is that Nobel Prize-winning economists and other towering figures in finance "really had a difficult time getting their path-breaking work accepted in the first place. That's the recurring theme through a lot of these (interviews). In the early going, a lot of these people had difficulties."
Buser believes that society is more open to innovations now, with the advent of the Internet providing more venues to publicize new ideas.
After the 2008 presidential election, the newly-elected Obama-Biden Administration tapped Buser as a transition team member assigned to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) team. Their report summarized FDIC's priorities and key players, at a time when the agency's role was dramatically changing to deal with the banking and financial crisis.
"I was contacted because I was an academic who had some familiarity with the banking side. I even spent a year at the FDIC back in 1974, where I actually worked on liquidation of what at that time was the largest bank to have ever failed," he recalls.
He established the Student Investment Management Program (SIM) on campus in 1990. The program, formed at the request of the Board of Trustees, allows students to manage equity funds on behalf of the university. The SIM portfolio has consistently outperformed the benchmark S&P 500 portfolio, with a market value in June 2008 of $22.8 million.
"What Ohio State did differently is we connected with the university endowment...so there was a level of professionalism that was unique," explains Buser, noting that other school investment programs used private donations and ran the program more like a club activity.
Reflecting on his Fisher tenure, Buser considers the legacy of his "voice" on campus to be that of a problem solver.
"No one enjoys problems, but I like the activity of solving (them) and doing the best we can given the problem," he says, adding, "I am proudest of the fact that I as a faculty member, and ultimately as department chair, I was able to help recruit, train, and manage a superb group of faculty members, and help grow the department’s reputation to the point that it is consistently ranked among the best business schools, public or private."