Michelle Hiskey, 404-413-3486
For Stuart Schwarzschild and the four ships carrying his Army heavy maintenance unit, the risk of death or severe injury hovered as they crossed the English Channel two weeks after D-Day. Nazi troops had planted underwater mines, and getting past those was a critical challenge. Schwarzschild’s troops were the mechanics and engineers who would help keep the heavy military vehicles — and the Allied invasion of Normandy – rolling.
“One of the LCTs [landing craft tanks] got hit with a mine, and I lost seven men of our company,” said Schwarzschild, now 94 and a retired lieutenant colonel, who after the war joined the faculty of what became Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
“Most of the unit were on an LCI [Landing Craft Infantry], and we were able to support the major [Allied] breakthrough at Saint-Lo on July 24. We were not on the front line of fire, but we did major repairs of vehicles and tanks. We carried a large supply of parts to keep the vehicles rolling.”
|Former GSU professor Stuart Schwarzschild.|
Access to a deep inventory became Schwarzschild’s key to maintenance success.
Timely financial and administrative support helped attract him to the GSU campus as one of the founding faculty of the actuarial sciences program. This field, like war, involves predicting outcomes based on broad ideals, group strategy and individual actions.
Schwarzschild weathered humble beginnings to help GSU’s Department of Risk Management and Insurance become internationally recognized for research on how individuals, corporations and governments balance decisions involving economics and risk.
“I had never heard of the Georgia State College of Business Administration [GSU’s name at the time], but my wife, Betty, came with me to visit, and a lot of the attraction was the personality appeal of [program founder] Ken Black and [dean] George Manners,” he recalled in an interview at his home in Buckhead.
His salary was lower than what he needed to live on, but the insurance industry – which wanted to support research and issues related to their growing field – gave him a supplement. “I depended on the Georgia State income, but without the supplement I couldn’t live entirely on it,” Schwarzschild said.
“I remember when coffee went to 7 cents in 1958,” he said of his first year on campus, when his office was in Kell Hall. “We had fewer than 5,000 students. Budgets were much lower, and faculty had to buy their own telephone service. Everything was much leaner.”
The momentum and energy of the campus attracted him.
“Noah Langdale had just come in as president, and nationally there weren’t many programs in risk and insurance,” he recalled. “We were in growth mode.”
Schwarzschild’s memories bring to life the history and vision of insurance and actuarial science at GSU. Black and Eli A. Zubay felt that the actuarial profession belonged in the business sphere and not in the mathematics department— a perception that bucked the conventional wisdom of that era. By positioning the program at what became the Robinson College of Business, the pioneers signaled that GSU aimed to produce business experts first, equipped with substantial risk insurance and mathematical skills.
Today, the Risk Management and Insurance Department has one of the largest full-time faculties and doctoral programs at any university worldwide. Its Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk (CEAR) links more than 100 researchers worldwide, creating a focal point for risk-related research that points directly to Atlanta.
To bridge the gap between military service (during World War II and Korea) and academia, Schwarzschild tapped into a prestigious donor. The S.S. Huebner Foundation for Insurance Education funded his doctoral work at Penn’s Wharton School of Business, and the Huebner Fellows network helped lead Schwarzschild to GSU.
Solomon S. Huebner had taught the first organized course on the economics of insurance in 1904 and written the pioneering texts on life, property and marine insurance. “Huebner alumni hold prominent positions at U.S. and Canadian universities, including those schools that are recognized as leaders in undergraduate insurance education, including Georgia State University,” the foundation website says.
“He was a big deal,” Schwarzschild said of Huebner (pronounced HEEB-ner). ”The scholarship was very important to me with a growing family.”
Huebner Fellows who attracted Schwarzschild to Atlanta included GSU professors Ken Black and John Hall, another early faculty member. Other connections between GSU and the Huebner Foundation include Chairman Emeritus Bruce A. Palmer, Harold D. Skipper Jr. (B.B.A. '70, M.A. '73, Ph.D. '77), who serves as the C.V. Starr Chair of International Insurance, and department chair Richard D. Phillips. Phillips is a current member of the Huebner Foundation Administrative Board.
“The academic entrepreneurial spirit Professor Schwarzschild and his colleagues established in their era is alive and well,” Phillips said, noting that faculty members have given expert testimony before various states, Congress and other countries around the world.
Schwarzschild also taught business law, real estate planning, pensions and related subjects. Like now, the typical student juggled classes with employment. “There is a difference between them and ones just going to school,” Schwarzschild said. “More motivation.”
GSU gave Schwarzschild an opportunity to exercise the resourcefulness he honed in the military.
Two years before D-Day, he had formed his unit — which later became part of the 902nd Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Company — with 300 soldiers from the Midwestern factory and car-producing states. They were stationed at Camp Livingstone in Louisiana, the site of massive maneuvers that prepared troops for real combat.
Even more important than expertise was having plenty of repair parts.
“Without supply, you really can only go so far,” said Schwarzschild.
From vehicles that were totaled, his troops stripped every reusable part. . That mindset helped him meet the challenge at GSU.
“I am proud to have been, with Black, Hall and others, part of the first 25 years of the Risk Management and Insurance Department,” Schwarzschild said. “Hall, Skipper, Palmer and Richards have led it to its current eminence.”
June 4, 2012