David Booth awarded University of Chicago Medal

Alumnus honored for philanthropic support and commitment to University

The Board of Trustees has awarded the University of Chicago Medal to David Booth, MBA’71, for the profound impact of his philanthropic support and deep commitment to the University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The University of Chicago Medal, which was awarded to Booth on Nov. 7, was established in 1976 by President John T. Wilson. It recognizes distinguished service of the highest order to the University by an individual or couple. Since its creation, it has been awarded to 23 individuals.

In 2008, Booth made the largest gift in University history, and the University named the Booth School of Business in recognition of him. The $300 million gift to the school has been transformative for Chicago Booth in building and sustaining its eminence and its position as the leading academic business school in the nation.

“We are deeply grateful to David Booth for his lasting impact on the University of Chicago and for his extraordinary generosity. David had a transformative experience as a student at the University, and his remarkable career has demonstrated the power of rigorous methodological thinking and its practical applications. His philanthropy and dedication to Chicago Booth enables a range of important outcomes from field-defining scholarship to ensuring many more students have transformative educational experiences,” said President Robert J. Zimmer.

Booth is a University Trustee and founder and executive chairman of the investment firm Dimensional Fund Advisors, which was built on the finance principles he learned while a graduate student at the University, particularly from his study with Prof. Eugene Fama, a Booth faculty member who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013. The University of Chicago Medal was awarded at an event on campus where Booth was joined by board members, University leaders, faculty and his children Erin Booth and Chandler Booth.

“The seeds of the highly successful firm David Booth built came from the rigorous, analytical approach he acquired at the University of Chicago and his time with outstanding scholars here. David has been exceedingly generous in many ways. His philanthropic support is unmatched, and his ongoing involvement with Chicago Booth faculty and students is exemplary,” said Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Booth grew up in Kansas and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Kansas. His finance professor at the University of Kansas, Frank Reilly, PhD’68, encouraged him to apply to the University of Chicago for graduate school, introducing him to the efficient-markets theory of the late Merton Miller, a Nobel laureate and Chicago Booth professor; and Fama, MBA’63, PhD’64, a Nobel laureate and the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance.

Booth arrived at Chicago in 1969 and found Fama’s course life-changing as he dug deeper into the efficient-markets theory, which posits that stock prices incorporate all available information.

In 1981, Booth started Dimensional Fund Advisors with Rex Sinquefield, MBA’72, another former Fama student. The firm became the first financial company to base its primary business on Fama’s ideas and prides itself on its philosophy of applying insights from financial science. Booth and Sinquefield have built Dimensional Fund Advisors into one of the largest institutional fund managers in the United States, responsible for some $570 billion in assets.

In 1999, Booth made a $10 million gift to support the fundraising campaign for the Charles M. Harper Center, which houses Chicago Booth’s full-time MBA and PhD programs, as well as its research centers and institutes. Then in 2008 Booth made the gift of $300 million, which is the largest gift ever given to a business school.

“We want to continue to be the best business school in the world, but I’ve felt that way for 35 years,” Booth said at the time. “Chicago is unique. It’s hard to describe, but for people that get Chicago, they know what you’re talking about. My goal is to help Chicago keep that uniqueness.”

Booth’s gift has supported the distinct ambitions of Chicago Booth, including recruiting and retaining top scholars, advancing field-defining research and developing Booth’s global reach. The school’s most recent Nobel laureate is Richard Thaler, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, who won the prize in economics in 2017.

Booth’s ties to the University remain strong. In addition to serving on the University’s Board of Trustees, he is a life member of the Council on Chicago Booth and a member of the Board of Overseers of the University’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.