Obituary: Radhakrishnan Gopalan, professor of finance, 50

Radhakrishnan Gopalan, a longtime, beloved professor of finance at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, died Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, of cancer. He was 50.

Born in 1972 in Chennai, India, Gopalan joined the university in 2006 after earning his PhD in finance from the University of Michigan. Before that, he worked for five years in the project finance department of a leading Indian bank. Most recently, he served as the academic director of Olin’s Mumbai-based executive MBA program, in partnership with IIT-Bombay.

radhakrishnan gopalan

“Radha was a dear friend, former student of mine, an esteemed researcher and a respected teacher and mentor to Olin students,” said Anjan Thakor, interim dean of Olin Business School and the John E. Simon Professor of Finance. “Our grief over this tragic loss is great, but so is our gratitude for the life of our friend.”

In remembering Gopalan, colleagues and friends recalled that he was an independent thinker who loved to call himself the “devil’s advocate” in any conversation. He was well loved for his kind heart, warm smile, quick wit and humor.

“Radha was a very special person — brilliant mind, warm heart, witty humor, caring and compassionate, a change agent and always encouraging his students and colleagues to do better and move forward,” said Mahendra R. Gupta, a former dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management.

“His research impact is global and so is his support for those in need. His presence was felt by all when he was in the room, and people paid attention to his words. He will be missed in the halls of Olin but live in our hearts forever.”

A prolific researcher, Gopalan authored more than two dozen academic papers on topics including corporate finance, corporate governance, emerging market financial systems, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, entrepreneurial finance and household finance. He was a go-to finance expert for journalists and researchers alike. His research collected nearly 4,000 citations over the years, according to Google Scholar notes.

Gopalan’s accomplishments were many. He was a recipient of Olin’s Reid teaching award, an annual award presented by Olin graduating students to the professors whose enthusiasm and exceptional teaching most inspire, energize and transform students.

He also was a two-time winner of the Olin Award, which is given in recognition for research most likely to have an immediate impact on business. In 2011, Poets & Quants selected Gopalan as one of the “40 best business school professors under 40.”

He leaves behind his wife, Sundari Balan, an adjunct lecturer in business at Olin and at University College, as well as two children — Ananya, a sophomore at Washington University, and Shrey, an eighth grader at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School.

Gopalan was an avid runner and was very active in supporting the nonprofit Asha for Education, an organization dedicated to providing education to underprivileged children in India. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Asha.

A memorial service was held Dec. 8 at Schrader Funeral Home & Crematory. To leave a remembrance, visit the Olin blog.

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