Ronald A. Howard

Ronald A. Howard

Past Awards

INFORMS Elected Fellows: Awardee(s)

Prize for the Teaching of the OR/MS Practice: Winner(s)

The 1998 INFORMS AWARD for the TEACHING of OR/MS PRACTICE is awarded to Ronald A. Howard for his leadership in the field of OR/MS education and practice for over thirty years. His legacy is the hundreds of students whom he taught, both in the University and in professional courses, who now practice and teach decision analysis.

Early in his career, Howard coined the term "decision analysis" to mean "applied decision theory," reflecting his passion to apply basic analytic principles to real human problems. The impact of his teaching is evident in the work of his students. Howard has supervised over sixty doctoral dissertations. A majority of these students have pursued careers as practicing decision analysts, either building decision analysis groups within existing corporations, founding or joining decision analysis consulting firms, or conducting significant ongoing practice from within academia.

As a professor in the Department of Engineering Economic Systems and Operations Research at Stanford University, Howard developed and still teaches the core of the decision analysis curriculum. His introductory classes regularly attract over one hundred and fifty undergraduates and graduates, while his seminars attract one or two dozen graduate students in law, business, medicine, and engineering. He also teaches decision analysis courses for professional clients and staff of Strategic Decisions Group, a firm he co-founded in 1981.

Howard designed his curriculum to guide students in devising and discussing norms of decision making. He elicits and proposes desiderata for decision-making methodologies and engages the students in evaluating their desirability. He then professes (in the true sense) his current best thinking about the norms. Throughout, he challenges the students to examine their approaches to decision making in both professional and personal life. For some, this proves to be a life-changing experience.

Howard's classes combine lecture, experiential learning, Socratic dialog, and directed inquiry. He places great importance on clarity of thought and communication, emphasizing that decision analysis is a high quality conversation about a decision, whose goal is to provide the decision-maker with clarity of action. He motivates and enables his students to think more clearly about decision making and thereby improve the decisions they make and facilitate in their personal and professional lives. For these lasting contributions, Professor Ronald A. Howard is awarded the honor of the first INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice.

Frank P. Ramsey Medal: Awardee(s)