With $1 million gift, former MIT Sloan dean Glen Urban retires to focus on research

Published: June 11, 2012

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“I really like to invest in educational capital,” Urban said. “A PhD fellowship has the potential to leverage young people to do exciting things, and it’s endowed so it will go on for a long time.”

Glen UrbanGlen Urban, circa 1968, soon after arriving at MIT Sloan

Urban arrived at MIT Sloan in 1966, at age 26, a Wisconsin native who earned his own PhD at Northwestern University. His friends and colleagues describe him as an energetic and optimistic researcher with an uncanny ability to deliver productive research and marketing tools, even on risky projects.

“What Glen does best is design the model and then design ways to go out and do research to calibrate the model,” said Institute Professor John Little. Urban, he said, is adept at partnering with major firms to develop his models, which often require large data sets and multi-year studies.

“He acquires funds for his research from industry,” Little said. “This is very common in the rest of MIT. It is very rare here at MIT Sloan. But Glen has raised money for all his projects.”

Perhaps Urban’s greatest academic achievement was ASSESSOR. Invented in 1978, ASSESSOR was a predictive model for packaged goods—products you would find in the aisles of a drug store or supermarket. Urban developed ASSESSOR at the request of Gillette, which was seeking a less expensive way to pre-market test its products.

“It saved millions of dollars,” Little said. “A test market for the packaged goods industry cost $1 million, which at the time was a lot of money. And ASSESSOR cost $60,000. So it took off.”

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