Seetharaman named W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (right) greets Seethu Seetharaman, PhD, at the start of the ceremony installing him as the W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing at Olin Business School.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (right) greets Seethu Seetharaman, PhD, at the start of the ceremony installing him as the W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing at Olin Business School.

Seethu Seetharaman, PhD, was recently installed as the W. Patrick McGinnis Professor of Marketing in the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

The ceremony, held Oct. 26 in the Charles F. Knight Executive Education Center, included welcoming remarks by Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and an address by Seetharaman titled “A Palm Full of Clay in an Infinite Universe.”

The professorship is the gift of W. Patrick McGinnis, who made a commitment in 2002 to establish this fund for a prominent scholar in marketing.

“As the field of marketing expands and evolves, the demand for outstanding faculty grows stronger,” Wrighton said. “Thanks to this generous gift from Pat McGinnis, a dedicated alumnus and member of the Board of Trustees, the Olin Business School is able to attract leading scholars like Seethu Seetharaman.”

McGinnis’ current title of president and chief executive officer of the Nestle Purina PetCare Co. is preceded by numerous leadership positions spanning nearly four decades within the Ralston Purina Co. The St. Louis-based manufacturer of human and animal food products merged with the Swiss-based Nestle SA Corp. in 2001.

McGinnis joined Ralston Purina in 1972, the same year he earned a master’s of business administration from Olin. During his tenure, McGinnis served as president and chief executive officer of Ralston’s Pet Products Group as well as chief executive officer and president of Ralston Purina Co.

McGinnis has many family ties to the university: His older son earned an MBA from Olin; his brother earned a BSBA from Olin; and his late father was a graduate of the School of Medicine.

McGinnis (right) and Seetharaman share a moment before the ceremony.

A native St. Louisan, McGinnis remains active in community organizations and is a member of Civic Progress St. Louis. He gives generously of his time and expertise to WUSTL as a board member as well as to Olin as a member of its national council. Previous gifts have supported the school’s Scholars in Business Program.

He is a member of the Danforth Circle Chancellor’s Level and a Life Patron of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. Both the Olin School and the university have presented McGinnis with distinguished alumni awards in 1993 and 1999, respectively.

“Seethu has made great contributions in the area of marketing, and we are proud to have him on the faculty at Olin,” says Mahendra R. Gupta, PhD, the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management and dean of Olin Business School. “Endowed professorships allow us to attract world-class professors, and we are greatly indebted to Mr. McGinnis for this gift and for his service to Washington University and Olin Business School.”

Seetharaman rejoined the Olin faculty last year; he initially joined in 1998 and became associate professor in 2004, the same year he joined the faculty of Rice University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1991 from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India. He subsequently earned two master’s degrees, one in chemical engineering from the University of Utah and one in management from Cornell University, where he went on to earn his doctorate in 1998.

The dominant theme of Seetharaman’s research seeks to understand dynamic consumer choice behavior and competitive pricing in the marketplace.

Using econometric modeling, he is compiling a growing body of knowledge to understand what factors come into play that affect consumer behavior, and to study how companies make decisions on pricing and promotions to attract those consumers.

Originally focusing on packaged grocery goods, his research has expanded to include everything from buying cars to using social media.

A recent analysis of the Groupon phenomenon is a case in point. Despite its growing popularity, Seetharaman’s analysis of data from a report on Groupon usage, which demonstrates that most Groupon users do not become repeat customers, points to Groupon’s present business model as unsustainable.

Seetharaman’s research has been published in leading academic journals, including the International Journal of Research in Marketing and the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics. He also has contributed many book chapters covering his fields of expertise.

He serves as an associate editor for Quantitative Marketing and Economics and for the Journal of Marketing Research. He is an editorial board member for the Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science and the Review of Marketing Science.