Faculty / April 7, 2021

Looking Back With Gratitude–And No Regrets

A sense of vibrancy led by the “energetic Dean Rudy Lamone” and a core of high-quality faculty inspired Michael O. Ball to join the University of Maryland’s College of Business and Management faculty in 1978.

Looking back,  he wouldn’t have made any other choice.

“The Smith School has become a premier business school in the world, and being part of that journey has given me great satisfaction,” he says after serving Maryland Smith as Senior Associate Dean, Dean's Chair in Management Science and the Orkand Corporation Professor of Management Science. “A very stimulating environment provided by my colleagues across the Smith School and university catalyzed my career development.”

That career produced more than 200 scholarly publications, covering a range of subjects, including air transportation, revenue management and pricing, supply chain management and system reliability. With operations research as a core discipline within both engineering and business schools, Ball held a joint appointment within Maryland Smith and the Institute for Systems Research in Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. He was a founding co-director of NEXTOR, an FAA-funded university consortium in aviation operations research. Now professor emeritus, he still manages and participates in NEXTOR-III research projects.

Ball says the perception of operations research as “a kind-of nerdy subject area” started changing in the 1990s, as the internet grew and supply chain management became more widely recognized as a critical business function. “The shift brought the tools of management science to the forefront of business strategy,” he says.

“More recently, the availability of vast amounts of business data and ultra-fast computer processing power enables the application of the most sophisticated analytics to support data-based decision-making in a discipline now known as operations management/management science (OM/MS),” he says.

Reflecting on the span of his teaching and research career, Ball says, he’s inspired by the students he has mentored and the next generation of scholars. That’s why he was moved to make a gift to Maryland Smith—“an investment,” he says—establishing a PhD fellowship for OM/MS studies.

“As is typical of my colleagues, I worked closely with my PhD students for multiple years and have maintained close connections to them as they have progressed through their careers.”

His $100,000 gift will support students in the OM/MS PhD program—for stipend and summer support, as well as conference travel and other academic expenses.

“A vital PhD program is essential to the research mission at a top business school, and an endowment to support PhD students will help ensure a robust PhD program even when financial constraints become tight,” he says.

“In the end, perhaps the most important motivation for me is to support a great institution that has done so much for my career and life.”

That career has inspired 17 additional donors, and counting, to the PhD fellowship for OM/MS studies, in recognition of Ball’s service.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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