A fictional conversation with David Booth

Jason Arican ‘15


Imagine, if you will:

David Booth: You know, I was thinking about it and I'd like to donate $300 million to the business school.

Board of Trustee Member: We're listening!

Booth: ...but I want to change the name.

Trustee: Hmm. Yeah, that's probably not gonna happen.

Booth <chuckles>: Sorry. Maybe you misheard me... I said 300-

Trustee: We heard you.

Booth: ...million-

Trustee: Good day, sir.

Booth: 300 million dollars, dude!

Trustee: I said GOOD DAY.

We can agree that this would never happen, right?

I bring this up because earlier this summer, a debate sprung up in the Class of 2015 Facebook page about whether the business school's brand was enhanced or devalued by changing the name to Chicago Booth. Rather than insert myself into intellectual discourse and give my thoughts on Facebook, I decided to wait until I had a platform in which to share my position unencumbered. I'm kind of passive aggressive like that.

The hypothetical conversation above is of course tongue-in-cheek, but it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which the donation was anything but graciously accepted. While the University of Chicago has a rich and proud tradition (in many circles it would have been enough to say that you received your M.B.A. "from Chicago"), the name alone did not carry the weight and allure of some of our peers. Bear in mind these are the same peers whose arrogance has somehow transcended using a name and who, as a result, print sweatshirts bearing only letters.

For a mature program, the true value of a brand is not just the name but in the people who represent it. David Booth's generous gift has helped the program attract more competitive classes of students, recruit and retain top faculty, and oh-by-the-way build a new campus in Hong Kong, which also happens to be one of the most expensive real-estate markets on the planet.

As students, our primary concern in the short-run is whether or not potential employers know that the Booth brand represents someone in possession of a high-quality, robust education. The answer to this is undoubtedly yes. In the long-run, the lasting value of the degree is in the network - again, this is a measure of quality that goes well-beyond the name.

So, whatever loss in brand equity we experienced by changing from "Chicago" to "Booth" is short-term and will be quickly be made up in the returns that financial flexibility affords. Plus, "Booth" just sounds cool and it's not so bad to be named after a guy who has made over a billion dollars on financial markets, particularly when we have a peer named after someone who made cereal. Delicious cereal, I might add. But... cereal.