In Memoriam


Robert Ferber (1982) ,"In Memoriam", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: iii-iv.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, 1982      Pages iii-iv


Robert Ferber

1922 - 1981

September 8, 1981. Robert Ferber died in an Urbana hospital. 59 years old. On that summer day, many of us lost a friend, and all of us lost a distinguished colleague. A colleague driven by a powerful intelligence and an intellectual restlessness, and yet tempered by a gentle humility. He touched so many of us: as a professor and a teacher, as a journal editor, as a co-author, as a leader in our profession, and as a human being. Surely, the world lost a gentleman and a scholar, the highest accolade we can bestow upon a colleague.

Although it would be easy to dwell on the sadness or even the unfairness of the pre-mature death of Professor Ferber or the gaping wound that it has left in the field of consumer research; I would rather use this opportunity to express thanks for the contributions he has made.

Bob Ferber was born in February 1922 in New York City and grew up during the depression years. His bachelors degree in mathematics was from the City College of New York in 1942. In 1945 he received his MA in economics and statistics at the University of Chicago During those years he was employed as a statistician. From there he went to Columbia University for graduate work in mathematical statistics.

In 1948, he was hired by the Department of Economics at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor, and by 1951 completed his doctorate in economics and statistics at the University of Chicago, with a dissertation entitled, "A Study of Aggregate Consumption Functions."

For those of you who knew Bob Ferber primarily as an editor extraordinaire, it may be of interest to point out that he too had written, and he too had to deal with editors that at times may have seemed unappreciative and stubborn. For Or. Ferber had authored at least 17 books, 32 monographs, 25 chapters in books, and 103 articles in professional Journals. Journals that ranged from the American Statistician to the Journal of Business, from the Public Opinion Quarterly to the American Economic Review to the Journal of Finance, and even in the Journal of Consumer Research under its first editor. And that is just a small sample. For those professors and students in the field of Marketing Research during the adolescent years of that field, the name Robert Ferber was a household word. Several of his textbooks: Statistical Techniques in Marketing Research, Research Methods in Economics and Business, his Handbook of Marketing Research, and readings books on marketing and survey research could be found on the shelves of most college bookstores. Several of his methodological papers on research procedures became critical to the development of that field.

With his interests in research methodology and surveys, it is not surprising that he founded the Survey Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Under his direction since its founding, that laboratory is recognized as one of the world's foremost academic centers for survey research. With professorial appointments at both Urbana and Chicago Circle, and with offices of the survey research laboratory in all three University of Illinois campuses, Ferber spent much of his time traveling from campus to campus. It is amazing indeed, that he could do all that he did.

With his brilliant interdisciplinary mind, his work was not limited to survey research or consumer research. He had written major papers in many fields: investment behavior and life insurance, family life style and decision making, social accounting, sales forecasting, applied mathematics in political science, housing, and even wind energy and windmill design, among dozens of others.

Professor Ferber had stayed professionally active in many fields, and particularly in statistics and economics, holding important positions both in American Statistical Association and the American Economic Association

And, the awards were to come. The Journal of Marketing Alpha Kappa Psi award for the best article in 1955. The Ford Foundation Master Scholar Award in 1963 when he was just 40 years of age, the Hall of Fame in Distribution Award in 1964, honorary membership in the American Psychological Association, and the prestigious Charles Coolidge Parlin award in 1972. And with his renown came consulting appointments with government agencies, the Brookings Institution, and business firms, not to mention his work with the Census Bureau in an advisory capacity, or his time consuming efforts in Latin America.

Economists considered Bob Ferber one of their own. To statisticians, he was a statistician. Division 23 psychologists considered him one of theirs. In the field of marketing, he was a marketing professor, a journal editor, president of the American Marketing Association, marketing author, and marketing professional.

But we, in the field of consumer research, know better. For he was really one of us. As early as the mid 1950's, Ferber, along with Hugh Wales, edited a book called Motivation and Market Behavior. Motivation research, psychological approaches to consumer research, and even topics such as content analysis appeared in that text. And this was years before others thought about writing books in consumer behavior. But a book, or an article, a field does not make. Ferber had played a far more pivotal role.

In the early 1960's, in great part due to his efforts, the American Marketing Association finally agreed to publish a new journal with Bob Ferber as its editor, the Journal of Marketing Research. At that time consumer behavior articles were few and far between. But from the first volume of JMR, behavioral articles were welcomed and encourage by Ferber. His high standards and tough editorial policies are well known, such that within a very short few years, to have an article published in JMR bestowed much prestige upon the author. Five years later, when Bob relinquished the JMR editorship, the major complaint about the journal was that the article mix was heavily weighted in favor of consumer research. One can only wonder how many budding assistant professors in the field of consumer behavior were tolerated in marketing departments because Ferber had encouraged and published in JMR one or two of their articles. And one can only wonder, if without Bob, how many of those articles would have been conceived, and if written, how many would eventually have been published. One can wonder, if without the prestige of JMR, how many of these authors would have stayed in the ?held, how many would have been given tenure, and the opportunity to reproduce their own kind, to the point that we have an association nearly 1000 members strong.

Bob was justifiably proud of the fact that JMR quickly grew and within the first year was financially self-supporting. And, was soon to become extremely profitable for the American Marketing Association. This was an important development for the field of consumer research. For, a few years later, in October 1971 a significant meeting was held at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Representatives of several associations had flown in to discuss the creation of a new journal. The obstacles seemed insurmountable. Many felt the whole idea was a bit foolish for there simply were not enough manuscripts to support a journal, and the money for such a project was but a dream.

The representative of the American Marketing Association was its just past president, Bob Ferber. Ferber was confident that manuscripts could be encouraged and would be sufficiently forthcoming. Further, Bob felt that because of the success of JMR, the American Marketing Association could be persuaded to lend the independent new journal $50,000 with no strings attached. Also, its subscription servicing facilities could be made available. He-. Ferber was instrumental in launching another journal. This one entitled, Research in Consumer Behavior, soon to be retitled, the Journal of Consumer Research.

Bob, then editor of a journal for the American Statistical Association, agreed to serve as Chairman of the Policy Board of the new journal. Within a few short weeks the loan was obtained. Under the able editorship of Ron Frank and the advisory role of Bob Ferber, the journal started publication. At first, quality manuscripts were sparse, but in time the journal was self supporting and shortly thereafter, the loan, with interest, was completely repaid. The journal, with a few rough interim years, has been successful since; and in 1977 Bob became its second editor. Once again, a Ferber edited journal had become the prestigious medium in which to publish. And, once again, a career could be launched because Ferber was there to accept an article, to encourage a revision.

Yes, it is sad that Bob Ferber is now gone. But, indeed, how fortunate we have been that he was here. Bob, we will miss you. We will miss your gentle rejection slips and the soft spoken encouragement to rewrite and revise. We will miss the articles and the books you might yet have written, we will miss the new journals you might yet have launched, we will miss your wise guidance and decency. We are proud that you were one of us, or better yet in front of us. Consumer research will go on now, without you, but your indelible mark can never be erased.

In the coming years there will be fewer and fewer of us who will remember your grin, your subtle dry humor, and the memorable Christmas letters your brilliantly perceptive cat used to write. But your professional contributions will remain. Scholars, yet unknown, will marvel at the depth and breadth of your work and your many significant roles. But we have known you personally. What a great privilege. Thank you, Bob Ferber.

Harold H. Kassarjian University of California, Los Angeles

(with appreciation to Carol A. Scott and H. Keith Hunt)



Robert Ferber


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09 | 1982

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