H. Paul Root


B.S. Mathematical Statistics 1959, M.S. Industrial Administration 1963, Ph.D. Marketing 1969

Former President, Marketing Science Institute

Written by: Andrea Rau, Ph.D. candidate in Statistics

"One of the most important lessons that I learned from my Purdue education in mathematical statistics was the understanding that good practice derives from good theory," said H. Paul Root. "This appreciation for the mutually reinforcing links between theory and practice has been an invaluable lesson to me." Paul's ability to bring together these two aspects of statistics has served him well throughout his long and varied career path, and allowed him to transition smoothly back and forth between work in industry and academia.

After graduating from Purdue with his B.S. in 1959 and completing his ROTC military duty, Paul joined the Delco Electronics Division of General Motors, where he worked in quality control and as a reliability statistician in the Semiconductor R&D department. While at Delco he was awarded a General Motors Fellowship to complete his MS in Industrial Administration from Purdue's Krannert School where he was a Krannert Scholar. He subsequently returned to Delco Electronics in 1963 to form an operations research group.

In 1965, the Krannert School invited him to become Director of Admissions for the MSIA program and to pursue a Ph.D. He completed his Ph.D. in marketing in 1969. "My interests in applying statistics to the field of marketing started when working on new product development projects while at GM's Semiconductor R&D department," Paul said. "The need for good marketing research and for better ways of assessing the financial and market risks of new products provided good opportunities to apply statistics in an area new to me. Thus, when I had a chance to work on my PhD, I know that I wanted to do my dissertation on new product analysis. My thesis dealt with the development and application of risk analysis models and subjective probability estimates for new industrial products."

After his Ph.D., Paul joined the faculty of the University of Michigan's Business School. He received tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971; soon after, he was also named Director of the Division of Research for the Business School and expanded the grant funding for faculty and graduate students.

"I continued my interests in combining marketing and statistics while on the faculty at the University of Michigan," said Paul. "For example, I taught a course in marketing research in the MBA program and some of the assignments dealt with the application of Bayesian statistics."

As an outgrowth of his research and consulting, he was invited to rejoin General Motors in Detroit as a member of the Finance Staff in 1973. He was promoted to Director of Economic Studies in GM's New York City office in 1976 and later promoted to Associate Chief Economist directing six units with 44 people located in NYC, Detroit, and Europe. As part of this assignment, he also served as a special assistant to the CEO of GM to work on a global energy analysis project involving several corporations and government agencies.

In 1982, as part of their goal to expand marketing capabilities, Dupont invited him to become their Manager of Marketing Research in the Marketing Communications Department. He was later named Director of Corporate Marketing Research and developed a highly regarded professional staff of 33 people with Masters or Ph.D. degrees in various quantitative methods and marketing disciplines. He also received a DuPont award for marketing excellence for his work in new product development. "The field of marketing research does, of course, require a solid understanding of statistics in all phases from sampling to analysis to design of experiments," said Paul. "My work at DuPont allowed me to apply this in a variety of projects ranging from industrial products to consumer products such as Stainmaster® carpets."

In response to DuPont's goal to expand marketing capabilities, he encouraged them to become a member company of the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) in Cambridge, MA. MSI is recognized as one of the most prestigious institutes in the world due to its grants to academics based on a set of "mutual learning" priorities established mutually between business executives and academics in marketing and related disciplines.

Paul was asked to join MSI's Executive Committee in 1988 and then to become its President in 1990. After becoming President of MSI, MSI grew from 44 to over 60 corporate members, added academic and business trustees and meetings in Europe, improved publications, and gained substantial grants from other organizations.

His work with MSI led to a variety of awards and honors. In 1998 the Trustees of MSI and the Board of Directors of the American Marketing Association honored Paul by creating an annual H. Paul Root/MSI award for the best publication in the Journal of Marketing that contributes to marketing practice. In 2000, he was awarded the AMA's Charles Coolidge Parlin Marketing Award for "outstanding leadership and sustained impact on advancing the profession of marketing and research over an extended period of time."

"My years with MSI have probably been some of best years of my career," said Paul. "The reason is because it was the ideal opportunity to help bridge the gap that too often exists between theory and practice in too many companies, government agencies, and universities. That is, there are too many faculty members that only talk to other academics. And there are too many practitioners that do not think that academic research can help them. Perhaps it is my Purdue statistics education that protected me from this myopia."

After many years of walking the line between academia and industry, Paul has learned the importance of carefully choosing his employers. "My best piece of advice to people, particularly early in a career, is to 'pick a good boss'", he said. He emphasized that throughout his career, he made sure to work with people who had "a solid appreciation for the importance of bridging theory and practice, and who understood the importance of continual learning that was far beyond the scope of simply sending someone to a few classes selected by the Human Resources department."

Paul has also been active in a number of professional associations such as being on the Board of Directors of the Advertising Research Foundation and the International Service Quality Association. In addition, he has given numerous presentations on the role of marketing and marketing research to professional groups in North America, Europe, Japan, and Latin America.

Most of his extracurricular professional activities have been with the 25,000 member American Marketing Association where he had held a number of elected positions including becoming Chairperson of the Board in 2004-05.

Paul strongly encourages all students to becoming actively involved in professional associations as soon as possible. "I want to stress the importance of getting involved with your professional association at an early stage in your career and continuing this involvement over your career," he said. "My early statistics job dealt with quality control and reliability and therefore the ASQC as well as ASA were organizations that I joined and attended as many meetings as I could. Later when my job was more directly involved in marketing, I became active in the American Marketing Association (AMA). Today, there are hundreds of very good professional associations that provide excellent learning opportunities regardless of your current career assignment."

Paul officially retired in 2004 but has continued some professional activities. In June of 2008 he completed a three year term on the U.S. Census Bureau's Professional Advisory Committee and served on an AMA Knowledge Development Task Force and developed a position paper that has led to the AMA's first "Evidence-Based Marketing Conference" held in June of this year.

He and his wife, Linda, a native of Lafayette, IN will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next year. One of their sons lives in Greenwood, IN and the other in New Canaan, CT. They have one granddaughter and four grandsons. (Three of which are potential future football stars for Purdue and one a potential future baseball star.) Linda and Paul spend nine months at their home in Kennett Square, PA and the winter months at Singer Island, FL.

Paul fondly remembers his time with the statistics group at Purdue. "It is good to see that the tradition of building the bridges between academics and practitioners continues in the Purdue Statistics Department," he said. "I certainly appreciate the education I received from the faculty here and I'm honored to be recognized as being a small part of the proud history of Purdue's Statistics Department."

H. Paul Root received the Statistics Outstanding Alumni Award from Purdue University, Department of Statistics in 2008.

To read more Alumni Profiles, please visit our Alumni Profiles archive

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