A Credit to His Roots

Following 40 years of business success and nonprofit leadership, an alumnus returns to lead our board of visitors.

 

 
Prospectus Alumni
By Robert Preer | Photos by Michal Czerwonka

Robert S. Murley (’74) comes from humble beginnings. His mother was a public school teacher, and when he was 12, his father passed away.

Today, he is chairman of Investment Banking in the Americas for Credit Suisse. He is also the new chairman of UCLA Anderson’s influential 60-person Board of Visitors (BOV), which provides strategic advice and support to the dean. “Mom was quite an inspiration. She raised three of us on a teacher’s salary,” he says. He remembers his mother’s words as he was leaving for college from the airport in Los Angeles. “She said, ‘Remember who you are and whose you are — don’t forget your roots.’”

After graduating from Princeton with a degree in politics, Murley knew he wanted to make banking his career. He applied to only one business school: the previously named UCLA Graduate School of Management. “At the time, I really believed I was going to live and work in Southern California,” he recalls. “I thought that UCLA would be a wonderful place not only to get an education, but also to develop relationships in the local business community. I also thought that, if for some reason, I wound up living elsewhere, I would benefit from the school’s national reputation.”

Murley has fond memories of his time at UCLA Anderson. “I enjoyed it tremendously. I had exceptional professors. I learned a great deal from business school that I continue to benefit from today,” he says.

In his first year of business school, he applied for a fellowship to study overseas, and in his second year, he was granted the award. After receiving his MBA, Murley used the fellowship to attend the London School of Economics, where he received an M.S. in international economics.

His strong education launched him into a long and successful career in investment banking.

 

Returning to His Roots

After finishing his studies in England, Murley returned to the U.S. and went to work on Wall Street for the First Boston Corporation. Eight years later, the firm moved him to Chicago, where the company was opening an investment banking office. He has been in Chicago ever since. In the ‘90s, Credit Suisse took a majority stake in First Boston and subsequently acquired the company. Next year, he will celebrate his 40th anniversary at the firm.

“I didn’t return to the West Coast very often after I received my MBA,” Murley recalls. “I’d read the mailings from UCLA Anderson and tried to stay in touch with developments at the school, but it was not easy, as I lived in Chicago. We had children, and I was in the process of building my career. California seemed like a distant memory.” All that changed when he got a call from UCLA Anderson Dean Judy D. Olian about six years ago inviting him to become more involved with his alma mater. He started by serving as guest speaker for several classes. Soon thereafter, he accepted an appointment to the BOV.

 

“Changing the mindset of our alumni base is a very important goal for the school. We need to educate them on the important role that philanthropy has to play in achieving our objectives.”

 

As BOV chair, Murley now works closely with the school’s administration. “Along with my fellow board members, I look forward to helping Judy accomplish the mission of vaulting the school into the very top tier of business schools worldwide,” Murley says.

New Emphasis on Philanthropy

One of the keys to accomplishing this, according to Murley, is convincing alumni to rethink their financial support for UCLA Anderson. In the past, the state of California funded a large share of the school’s operations, but in 2013, UC President Mark Yudof approved UCLA Anderson’s proposal to convert the state-supported full-time MBA program to self-supporting status. The program no longer receives state funds.

“Changing the mindset of our alumni base is a very important goal for the school,” says Murley. “We need to educate them on the important role that philanthropy has to play in achieving our objectives.”

Murley sees an important role for the BOV in getting UCLA Anderson alumni more involved in support of the institution.

“I hope we will build a stronger culture within the board,” he says. “I would like to see more board engagement, and encourage our alumni to make UCLA Anderson a top philanthropic priority.”

Although Murley’s goals for the school may seem ambitious, he has an impressive record of accomplishment in guiding top-tier institutions. He co-chaired the largest capital campaign in Princeton’s history, a five-year project that raised approximately $2 billion. He also led fundraising for a new Chicago children’s hospital, which cost more than $600 million and opened in 2012.

Murley has been involved in higher education on multiple fronts. He has been a member of Princeton’s board of trustees for almost 20 years and is now an officer of the board of trustees. He also served on Princeton’s last two presidential search committees.

He is also a chairman of the board of trustees of the Educational Testing Service, the world’s largest private nonprofit educational testing organization, and serves as a director of the Apollo Education Group, which is the largest for-profit publicly traded education company.

Values-based Leadership

Murley has held a series of key positions at Credit Suisse/First Boston: head of the Chicago office, the Global Industrial and Services Group and the North American region, and over the years has served as a member of the Operating Committee and the Management Committee of the Investment Banking Division.

“I’ve never really believed in the theory that the grass is greener. I’ve always believed it takes a long time to build relationships in firms and to develop the relationships with colleagues and partners. It’s what makes you more effective.”

Murley says he has always worked on the client side of investment banking. “One of the things that my clients have always looked to me to do was to ‘deliver the firm.’ An investment bank is a big and complicated place, and when you are working with a big corporation, you have to field a team that is interdisciplinary. Someone has to bring together all of the resources of the firm and deliver them to the client on a timely basis.”

When he returned to UCLA Anderson as a guest lecturer, he addressed a topic important to his impressive and successful career: ethics. “I’ve always thought of myself as a values-based leader. I’ve always believed that culture, mission and values are what really keeps an organization together and moving forward,” he says.

Murley has given generously of his time, energy and financial resources to the institutions that have been important in his life. He is gratified to be deeply involved in helping UCLA Anderson.

“UCLA Anderson was a place that had a very positive impact on me and my career,” he says. “I think it’s important to give back. I have a sense of gratitude to those places that have helped me along the way.”

BOV PLAYS KEY ROLE FOR SCHOOL

When seeking help and advice on how UCLA Anderson can flourish and grow, the school’s administration looks to its Board of Visitors.

The approximately 60-member panel is made up of senior executives and entrepreneurs from around the globe. “Members of our Board of Visitors are critical advisors and allies to us in advancing the excellence and global impact of UCLA Anderson,” Dean Judy D. Olian says. “These extraordinary leaders and role models enlarge our vision and help us prepare the future leaders of business and community organizations around the world.”

The board’s activities include fundraising, outreach, reputation building and expanding the alumni network. According to the board’s charter, approximately 55 of its members should come from the United States and five from other countries.

Members contribute significant personal gifts to the school each year. The board meets three times annually, and one of these meetings includes an overnight retreat.

A 16-member executive committee of the board is involved in developing revenue and growth strategies for the school and in the recruitment of students and faculty.