Marketing department honors life, impact of Timothy Gilbride
Courtney Becker | Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Each year, faculty members at Notre Dame are called to do three things: teach, research and serve. Timothy Gilbride distinguished himself in each of these tasks.
“He’s one of the most well-rounded people that I’ve ever met,” John Sherry, the Raymond W. & Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Marketing, said. “In our field, we look at teaching, research and service as your principal contributions to the field and to the College, and he was just outstanding on all these dimensions.”
Professor Gilbride, the Steve and Anne Odland Associate Professor of Marketing, died Jan. 12 after a seven-year battle with cancer. He was 52.
Shankar Ganesan, the John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Professor of Business and chair of the marketing department, said Professor Gilbride was “a talented researcher, incredibly smart person, both hard-working and humble and willing to give to Notre Dame [and] be an awesome mentor to students and faculty.” In the midst of chemotherapy treatments and shortly after surgeries, Ganesan said, Professor Gilbride remained committed to his work, even working on developing a new marketing course throughout the fall 2018 semester.
“He was basically good at almost everything,” Ganesan said. “He was a great departmental citizen, and as a chair, I would go to him with requests and he would be willing to do whatever it took to help the department.”
Before coming to Notre Dame in 2004, Professor Gilbride worked in marketing research and consulting at Goodyear, Booz Allen Hamilton and Aetna. He earned his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Dayton and his MBA from Ohio State University, where he later returned to complete his Ph.D. in business administration.
Professor Gilbride’s tenacity after his 2011 diagnosis of stage IV cancer was inspiring to his colleagues, Sherry said.
“I think he was put here on Earth for a purpose, and he was just going to see it through,” he said. “We were awestruck, I think — the faculty — and I know I was personally, to see him bounce back, because the treatment took a real toll on him, a real physical toll.”
In 2014, Professor Gilbride wrote an essay for Mendoza Business magazine titled “The Mathematics of Hope,” in which he described the impact his cancer diagnosis had on his Catholic faith.
“I have been overwhelmed by the love and support from my family, friends and colleagues,” Professor Gilbride wrote in the essay. “I have come to appreciate the Mass and celebrating the Eucharist, the communion of believers, in a way that I could not understand before my cancer.”
He also continued to value his time in the classroom. Senior Rachel Becker, who took Professor Gilbride’s marketing analytics class in the fall of 2017, said Professor Gilbride went above and beyond to be there for his students.
“The last day of class, I remember he had just had surgery of some sort, and he came in and he was there a few days after that had happened, there answering questions for us for our final exam,” Becker said. “I just think that that speaks to the dedication that he had to his students and what he does.”
Senior Hank Assaf, who took Professor Gilbride’s marketing research class in the fall of 2017, said Professor Gilbride went out of his way to ensure Assaf was not overwhelmed as the only junior in the class.
“He asked me if I wanted to go to lunch to talk about what I wanted to do for my internship the next summer, or if he could help me with anything like that because I was the only one who didn’t have a job in the class,” Assaf said. “So he emailed me asking me to go to lunch, and then I went to his office hours a bunch. The class was very hard, so he was just really, really helpful in teaching.”
Although Professor Gilbride “taught very difficult courses” for both undergraduates and MBA students, his commitment to ensuring all of his students could understand the material set him apart and made him a well-liked teacher, Ganesan said.
“Marketing analytics was one of the most popular courses and was always over-subscribed,” he said. “And it’s not just the students who had strength in quantitative aspects that took the course, but people who did not have that. The fundamental difference between him and other professors was, he would spend enormous amounts of time with the people who didn’t understand, who were quantitatively challenged.”
Becker said Professor Gilbride always seemed “very humble” and “spoke to [students] in ways that [they] could understand the problems, and you could just really tell that he cared,” both in class and during his office hours.
The marketing analytics course “was one of the most intellectually demanding classes I’ve taken, but it’s had so much real-world application, and I think that really speaks to just his excellence as a professor,” Becker said. “And he was definitely one of those beyond-his-time-brilliant teachers and researchers who was really dedicated to the marketing analytics field.”
Sherry said Professor Gilbride’s far-reaching impacts as both a scholar and a professor were particularly evident when he received condolence messages from former students and the editor of the Journal of Marketing in the past month.
“He was a really accomplished scholar, just a smart guy. He was an excellent teacher, and not only just in the classroom,” Sherry said. “He’d come in on Sunday afternoon when students would be working on group projects and so forth, and they’d drop in on him and he’d advise them as they went along. … I think anybody he touched and anybody that he came in contact with recognized that he was, in that moment, he was just completely committed to them.”
Professor Gilbride’s commitment even extended beyond the school year, Assaf said.
“One time this summer, during my internship, I was trying to figure something [out] on Excel, and I emailed him and he called me, and we talked for an hour just trying to figure this thing out on Excel,” he said. “[Professor Gilbride was] just an incredibly helpful guy, just really had a passion for his students and teaching and things like that.”
Ganesan said Professor Gilbride’s love for the subjects he taught were what drove him when students and faculty members approached him with questions.
“He loved what he did. He’d develop these quantitative marketing models. He loved that; he loved the challenge,” Ganesan said. “And so when somebody would ask him a question, fine — if he had answers, he would spend some time explaining it, telling them how to solve the problem. But if he did not, he would just go to the literature and understand the problem and find some answers to the problem. And that’s why he was special, and he’s done it so many times with students.”
That love particularly came across during Professor Gilbride’s one-on-one meetings with students, which always seemed like “a discovery process for him, too,” Becker said. “He was enjoying the learning process, too, so it was a very collaborative thing.”
Another of Professor Gilbride’s passions, Sherry said, was one he rediscovered during a period of recovery: motorcycles.
“He used to be a motorcycle enthusiast and kind of put that on the back burner while his career was developing, and he reconnected with that during this illness, and I think it gave him a renewed sense of purpose in a complete non-academic direction,” Sherry said. “It got to the point where he couldn’t ride the bike anymore, but he’d always had this dream of doing a cross-country trip, and he got in the car one summer and just did it, various family members accompanying him on different legs of the trip.”
William Wilkie, the Aloysius and Eleanor Nathe Professor of Marketing Strategy, said Professor Gilbride’s family — he had a wife and three children — were his primary motivation in life.
“I asked him why he chose to come to Notre Dame when he turned down Stanford, Fordham and Carnegie,” Wilkie said. “And he told me that he was seeking balance in his life, he wanted to have a fine life for his family and himself in addition to being able to do good research. So that was impressive to me.”
Once he was at Notre Dame, Professor Gilbride was “a very important member of the department,” Wilkie said, thanks to his expertise in quantitative analysis in addition to his willingness to commit himself to a number of departmental committees.
Ganesan said it is the balance Professor Gilbride showed between those three roles of a professor — teaching, researching and serving — that inspired the marketing department to create an award named in Professor Gilbride’s honor. An announcement about the first recipient of that award will be coming soon, Ganesan said.
It is fitting, Sherry said, that Professor Gilbride should be recognized in such a way because “he was not only part of the discussion, but he had an influential voice in everything that [the department] did” and was “a grounding presence.”
“We feel strongly about everything Tim did for the College and for the University that we want his name to continue, and so we’ll memorialize him that way,” Sherry said.
What will be missed more than Professor Gilbride’s abilities as a professor, Wilkie said, will be his role as “a central member of the department.”
“Clearly his presence is going to be missed, unquestionably,” Wilkie said. “He was one of the top people in the country, so it was a pleasure to work with him, and — though I doubt the students really perceive it — it was an honor to study under him.”