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Men's tennis team back on ASU courts after 10-year hiatus

Thanks to donations, ASU brings back men's tennis team after 10-year hiatus.
January 10, 2018

Donations renew sport that was dropped due to financial cutbacks

Arizona State University is resuming men’s tennis, a decade after the sport was dropped to save money.

The program was brought back thanks in part to a $1 million donation by Vice President for Athletics Ray Anderson and his wife, Buffie, and also with $4 million from adidas, the Sun Devils’ athletic apparel partner.

Matt Hill, the head coach of the men’s tennis team, said the financial support has been an inspiration as the coaches and players have spent more than a year working toward their opening match on Saturday.

“As a college tennis coach, I know it’s so rare to have anything near that level of support,” Hill said. “It’s always in the back of our minds ... and it’s a different kind of pride you feel.”

Men's tennis is the fourth sportMen’s hockey went from a club to a Division 1 sport in 2015. Women’s triathlon launched in 2016 and won national titles in its first two years. ASU has added since Anderson was hired in January 2014, including men's hockey, women's triathlon and women’s lacrosse — which is launching this spring — raising the number of Sun Devil varsity sports to 26.

After Hill was hired in 2016, he assembled an international roster of athletes, with students from Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, England and the United States.

“It’s an interesting concept when you have guys from all over the world and you have all these different cultures,” he said. “It broadens the way they see things and the way they operate through their narrow lens and as we widen that lens, it strengthens them as people and as players.”

The first match of the season will be meaningful: The men are facing Duke, which eliminated the Sun Devils in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, ASU’s last match before the sport was discontinued. The match is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Whiteman Tennis Center on the Tempe campus; admission is free.

Hill said that the players are working on team chemistry.

“When they’re playing a tournament in Croatia, they’re playing for themselves, and now they have different people they’ve become very close with and they’re playing for each other and that’s a different type of pressure than what they’ve felt before,” he said.

Benjamin Hannestad, a freshman from Denmark, said that he and the other players have talked with alumni who played on the team before it was discontinued.

“There are not many times you get to restart a program, so it’d kind of a big deal for us,” he said. “We want to continue the great tennis that is historic of ASU, and we want to make them proud.”

The ASU men’s tennis program ran from 1902 to 2008, and its renewal is part of Anderson’s effort to boost the university’s Olympic sports, including swimming and wrestling, including plans to build an elite-level training center.

That vision drew the Intercollegiate Tennis Association to relocate to Tempe from New Jersey in 2016. The nonprofit group, which is the governing body for college tennis, including all divisions of NCAA as well as the NAIA and community colleges, is based at ASU’s University Center complex in Tempe. The independent organization represents 1,200 institutions and 15,000 student athletes.

Tim Russell, the CEO of the association, said that proximity to ASU, with its plan for a new tennis facility, was a big reason the group relocated. He’s hoping to partner with the university on community tennis programs.

“College sports is usually dominated by football and basketball but we’re committed to the life sports, and tennis is a sport of a lifetime,” he said. “We’re creating competitive humans on and off the court.”

Russell said his group is seeing an uptick in colleges reinstating men’s tennis teams. Southern Arkansas University and Kentucky Wesleyan are adding men’s tennis teams this year after eliminating them in the 1990s.

“But ASU is the most visible, high-profile school to do this,” he said. “For a school the size of ASU to add a sport is a big deal, and for it to be tennis is thrilling.”

In the Pac-12 conference, ASU is joining Cal, the University of Arizona, Stanford, UCLA, USC, the University of Oregon, the University of Utah and the University of Washington in having both men’s and women’s tennis teams. Washington State and the University of Colorado have women’s teams only. Oregon State has neither.

Of all the Pac-12 sports, ASU does not have men’s and women’s rowing, women’s field hockey and men’s soccer, gymnastics, volleyball and water polo.

Hill said that recruiting to a new program is challenging because there are no rankings to tout.

“But there is an advantage to having a clean slate because you sell your vision and there’s nothing say it can’t be done.”

Top photo: Matt Hill, head coach of the ASU men's tennis team, volleys with a player during practice. The team takes on Duke University this Saturday — the last opponent the program faced before being discontinued in 2008. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Bruce Halle remembered for generosity to ASU

Founder of Discount Tire impacted many across the university

January 10, 2018

Arizona State University lost one of its most generous supporters last week with the death of Bruce Halle, who built Discount Tire from one small showroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1960 into one of the most successful independent tire dealerships in the industry’s history.

Strong advocates for social justice, higher education, health and medical initiatives and the arts, Halle and his wife, Diane, have channeled their generosity to a range of ASU initiatives since 1985. Their most recent gift supported the newly constructed Herberger Young Scholars Academy, a unique learning environment for gifted children at the ASU West campus. ASU President Michael M. Crow opens the exhibit "ASU Skyspace: Air Apparent," with Bruce and Diane Halle in 2012. Bruce Halle, who died last week at 87, was one of ASU’s most generous supporters. ASU President Michael M. Crow opens the exhibit "ASU Skyspace: Air Apparent," with Bruce and Diane Halle in 2012. Bruce Halle, the founder of Discount Tire who died last week at 87, was one of ASU’s most generous supporters. Download Full Image

But his generosity, like his interests and passions, spanned many fields and impacted many individual lives.

“Bruce and Diane’s impact reaches all across Arizona State University,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Bruce believed in the power of personal involvement as a way to elevate lives, whether with the employees of his company or students here at ASU. His support included important health initiatives through ASU’s partnership with the Mayo Clinic, championing the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and empowering veterans through scholarships. Bruce’s generosity changed the lives of many, many people.”

The Halles directed their generosity to ASU programs that deal with education; health care and health care research; the arts, including the Herberger Institute and the ASU Art Museum; scholarships, including those for veterans; and business education.

What stands out about Bruce Halle’s generosity is his deep concern for the individual, said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of the ASU Foundation.

“Bruce had an enormously inspiring, up-from-the bootstraps story,” Buhlig said. “One thing that stands out is how deeply he cared for the people he hired at Discount Tire — he was fiercely devoted to his employees.”

“He brought the same care and concern to his partnerships at Arizona State University," she said. "He cared about the individual, and his and Diane’s history here reflects that. We are deeply grateful that he saw ASU as a place where he could make a difference, and that he believed in and supported the mission of the university."

Bruce and Diane’s long history at ASU allowed them to aid the transition between ASU’s previous president, Lattie Coor, with whom they also cultivated a strong relationship, and ASU’s current president Michael Crow and his wife, Sybil Francis, when they arrived at ASU in 2002, she said.

“Bruce and Diane were an important bridge,” Buhlig said. “They welcomed Dr. Crow and Sybil Francis and connected them to the community. Bruce was the kind of person who brought people together for the greater good. We will all miss that about him.”

When Halle started Discount Tire, he rented a small shop and had only six tires. He did everything —changed tires, kept the books, painted the signs and even cleaned the bathrooms. Today, Discount Tire operates more than 975 company-owned stores and employs more than 18,000 people.

In 2002, he and Diane established the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation to focus their giving on gifts that have deep impact. They also established programs through Discount Tire that enable executive employees to make high-impact gifts in their regions.

Strong supporters of the arts, particularly through Diane’s passion for Latin American art, Bruce and Diane gave generously to the ASU Art Museum, the ASU School of Art, and the Herberger Institute, as well as to scholarship and visiting artist programs that impacted individual students and artists.

“Bruce Halle’s impact will be felt through the arts community for years to come,” said Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute. “He and Diane devoted themselves to arts and design, to bringing exhibits to the public, to the student-artist experience through scholarships and residencies, and more. They were passionate about making sure the general public had access to great art, as evidenced by their support for James Turrell’s ‘ASU Skyspace: Air Apparent’ and the adjacent Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden near Rural and Terrace roads. We will be forever grateful for their generosity of spirit.”

Deeply personal in their giving, the Halles recently gave a gift to support the Mayo Medical School — Arizona Campus and its collaboration with ASU. At the time, they said the partnership supports a medical education that incorporates the science of health care delivery and offers the opportunity for a master’s degree.

ASU music professor paints abstract music with magnificent organs

January 9, 2018

Kimberly Marshall, the Patricia and Leonard Goldman Endowed ProfessorLong-term gifts like the Goldman professorship contribute to the high quality of education at ASU because they deliver a dependable, permanent source of funding that equips the university to support the best professors, cutting-edge research, and top academic programs. For more about supporting ASU through Campaign ASU 2020, go to in Organ in the Arizona State University School of Music, is known worldwide for her compelling programs and presentations of organ music. She performs regularly in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, is an accomplished teacher and is considered an expert in medieval music.

Marshall was an invited performer for an inaugural recital on the University of Notre Dame’s new Fritts organ as part of the Reformations and the Organ, 1517-2017 Conference in September. Her premiere recital was one of three held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Kimberly Marshall with Traeri organ Professor Kimberly Marshall of the ASU School of Music with ASU's Traeri organ. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marshall Download Full Image

Question: The inauguration of the Notre Dame Fritts organ was considered a premiere event. What is so special about this organ?

Answer: It is very special because it is the largest instrument built by one of the finest organ builders in the world; it is in a very fine acoustical setting; and it is at a university where there is enormous emphasis on the organ program.

Notre Dame has the most well-endowed program in the country, and the impact of the instrument is going to be magnified by the resources that they put into their organ program.

The reason that the instrument is such a high quality is because organ builder Paul Fritts is really a genius at design and at voicing, which is the individual manipulation that makes each pipe so that it sounds well in the room.

Fritts is incredibly gifted not only for designing the instrument but because this instrument is really three organs in one — it has French sounds, it has north German sounds and it has central German sounds. These are all different traditions of organ building, and because the instrument is so large, he is able to include all of these. It also has some Spanish sounds that are very distinctive for playing Spanish music.

The Notre Dame organ is extremely special because it has so many possibilities.

Q: ASU also has an organ designed and built by Paul Fritts. Did you perform the inaugural 1992 concert on our Fritts organ?

A: No, I did not perform the inaugural recital at ASU. There was a big conference, and I was invited to give a paper and present a master class. I was working in California, and it was my first visit here.

The organ professor who was here before me was really the moving force behind getting our Fritts organ as part of the new building. He did the inaugural performance, as he should. I really fell in love with the place and never really dreamed that I would be back as the organ professor and inherit all this about six years later.

An interesting note about our Fritts organ is that because it gets so much use with practicing, teaching and our robust concert series, we are estimating it has about 100 years’ worth of use on it. The cow bone keys already have little wearing grooves.

Q: Can you elaborate on why a Fritts organ is so special and organ building in general?

A: There is a little bit of a cultural cringe with organ because, obviously, the instrument that most of the repertoires were composed for are in Europe. The organs that have survived are really important instruments and incredibly special. American builders have only in the past 30 years really been trying to emulate the style. Before that the American builders were creating an American style that was very eclectic. In the 1950s and '60s there was sort of this idea that there is “one organ that plays everything,” and everything sounded the same.

But if you are really after art — a high-level artistry — that’s really not satisfactory.

There were two main influential American builders that had studied in Europe and really worked to bring a new awareness of the historical models to the U.S. Paul Fritts is the next generation — the generation that really got it. Fritts is one of three builders that exist in the European tradition.

Notre Dame Fritts Organ

The University of Notre Dame Fritts organ inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Courtesy of Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders

Organ building is all done on-site because it’s all a function of the acoustics and takes so much expertise. You have to be an expert designer and an engineer. If the organ front is hanging, you have to know formulas just to build the supports because of the stresses. You also have to be an expert woodworker and expert metallurgist, and have all the musical tools to make the adjustments to the pipes.

The main problem for American organ builders is the acoustics. They are usually building instruments in much less reverberant places because Americans like their carpet, their cushions and their comfort — all things that detract from the acoustics. The Notre Dame $5 million project was so expensive because it was not all for the organ. About half was because of acoustical redesign — they had to rip up carpet and put in new flooring to make the acoustics better.

We often say that the most important stop in the organ is the “roof,” meaning the acoustics.

It is important for people to understand that and, for me, to increase awareness that there are different types of acoustics for different types of music.

ASU Gammage was brilliantly designed for acoustical music. If you have ever heard a symphony concert, a wind band concert, any sort of acoustic music there, you know it is spectacular. How sad it is that Frank Lloyd Wright did not build more acoustic spaces. I have been up in the third balcony and you can hear the first flute clear as a bell. Though the acoustics are not very good for amplified music, they are phenomenal for acoustic music.

Q: You have performed on many famous and historic organs. What was the oldest organ you have played, and do you have a favorite?

A: The oldest playable organ is generally considered to be an organ in Sion, Switzerland, dated around 1435. I’ve played there a couple of times, and it would be in my top 20 organs. The Sion organ is in a very, very beautiful church way up on a hill, and the organ is perched up on a wall — what we call a “swallow's nest” placement hanging on the wall. When organs are that high up, the sounds project.

My favorite? I love them all equally, and they are all different.

That’s the great thing about organs — you can be playing on a small organ one week and a large monstrosity the next.

Q: How do you see the future of organ at ASU and in general?

A: In addition to teaching organ majors, I teach the basic music appreciation courses for nonmajors. A lot of the students do not really listen to the music, unfortunately, because they are distracted by doing something else. I think it’s very, very hard for a lot of people in our society, not just young people, to sit down and just listen to something for five minutes. I think that is the biggest threat to music in general.

The beauty of music is that it’s an abstract language. It can be anything.

One thing I love about the organ is that it’s also so abstract. Obviously organ can accompany things, but what I like is the solo. You have all these hammers, all these sounds — you are like a painter with sounds putting it all together.

There is a shortage of young organists, so my students get jobs even before they start their studies, which is nice. That is a result of high demand and low supply.

Kimberly Marshall playing Fritts organ

Kimberly Marshall playing the Notre Dame Fritts organ. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marshall

2018 Organ Series concerts:

Sunday, Jan. 14, 2:30 p.m. Organ Hall
Bach’s Formative Influences, Part I
Kimberly Marshall, Goldman Professor of Organ

Sunday, Jan. 28, 2:30 p.m. Organ Hall
‘Songs of My Homeland’
Ashley Snavley, ASU Alumni

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m. Organ Hall
Toccata Power!
Timothy Olsen, North Carolina organist

Sunday, March 18 2:30 p.m. Organ Hall
Bach’s Formative Influences, Part II
Geoffrey Ward, ASU alumnus

The ASU School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, offers bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees in organ performance. Visit for more information.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


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ASU awarded $6.4M grant to test preventive cancer vaccine for dogs

ASU to lead biggest cancer intervention trial in dogs ever conducted.
ASU team wants to eventually make leap from cancer research in dogs to humans.
January 3, 2018

Grant will support the largest interventional canine clinical trial ever conducted

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

The Open Philanthropy Project awarded a multi-year grant of $6,421,402 to Stephen Albert Johnston at Arizona State University to support the largest interventional canine clinical trial ever conducted. The trial will assess the effectiveness of a unique vaccine in preventing any type of cancer in dogs. 

The trial will enroll at least 800 owners’ pets to test the efficacy of a novel vaccine to prevent cancer.

“Our goal has always been, that if this is possible, we should at least try it,” said Johnston, who directs the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine and is a professor in the School of Life Sciences. “Open Philanthropy was the only organization that responded to support our high-risk project, the biggest cancer intervention trial in dogs ever. I really admire them for that.”

Searching for a vaccine

It is widely thought that all cancers are unique and therefore a general, preventative vaccine would not be possible. However, Johnston’s team has discovered a potentially high-impact way of identifying tumor antigens that are common among cancers; these make up the key components of their vaccine.

The new vaccine, called a multi-valent frameshift peptide (FSP) vaccine, was developed by Johnston and his team over the last ten years. The vaccine already has been tested for efficacy in mice and is shown to be safe in dogs.

Johnston and his team eventually want to take the next leap and test the vaccine in humans. However, they feel that first testing the vaccine in dogs has many advantages. 

Cancer is the leading cause of death in pet dogs and their cancers are very similar to their human counterparts. Some breeds have a very high cancer rate, as much as 40 percent. The canine immune system responds to tumors and vaccines similarly to that of humans, but the course of tumor development in dogs is much shorter. Johnston thinks they can evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine in five years or less, versus the 15 to 20 years it would take in a human trial. The vaccine they are testing in dogs will have a comparable composition to the one they would test in people.

“We have been working over 10 years to develop a vaccine that could potentially prevent any cancer,” said Luhui Shen, senior science director of the vaccine project. “Our next goal is to test the vaccine in owner-enrolled, healthy dogs. We are fairly confident that if the vaccine works in dogs, it could work in people.”

How the trial will work

The trial will be conducted under the direction of Douglas Thamm, director of clinical research at the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. Healthy, middle-aged pet dogs will be enrolled, continuing to live their normal lives at home and receiving biannual exams with a complete clinical pathology workup. 

Dogs will be randomly chosen to receive either the vaccine or a mock version. Dogs receiving the mock vaccine are expected to develop cancer at normal rates. The experiment will determine whether the test vaccine can prevent cancers.

Any owner whose dog develops cancer during the trial, on either the test or control arm, will be given a credit toward medical expenses.

If successful, this trial would provide strong support for the concept of employing FSP vaccines to prevent cancer in its earliest stages, possibly leading to a canine cancer vaccine, and could eventually justify human clinical trials for both treatment and prevention.

“We consider this a high-risk project with an unusual opportunity for high impact as it could possibly reduce the incidence of cancer and cancer metastasis,” the Open Philanthropy Project grant announcement said. “We believe cancer preventative vaccines have a higher expected value than curative cancer therapies, since an effective vaccine would likely be a less expensive way to provide decades of healthy life compared to current cancer therapies, which often only extend life for a few months or years. We also believe cancer vaccines would be tractable in developing countries, which have a high cancer burden. FSP vaccines are particularly attractive compared to other proposed cancer vaccines because they may work against many cancer cell types.”

A daring gift

Cancer is increasingly placing a toll on developing countries, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report published in 2010. The latest WHO statistics cite that cancer causes around 7.9 million deaths worldwide each year. Of these deaths, around 70 percent, or 5.5 million deaths, are now occurring in the developing world. A disease once associated with affluence now places its heaviest burden on the poor and disadvantaged who can not afford the advanced treatments available in developed countries, some of which cost $200,000 or more. 

“If the vaccine works it should be inexpensive enough that everyone in the world could get it,” according to Johnston.

Johnston foresees this commitment on the Open Philanthropy Project’s part to be an inspiration to other philanthropic efforts to be more daring and risk-taking.

“It wasn’t easy to identify an organization interested in funding such a trial,” Johnston said. “Open Philanthropy came to us, rigorously reviewed our proposal and offered to fund the trial. We are extremely grateful that they would support this high-risk effort.  This vaccine may not work, but if it does it will be thanks to the commitment of Open Philanthropy to funding potentially transformative efforts.”

Johnston is the director of the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine and CEO of Calviri, Inc, a cancer vaccine company. He is known for his success as an innovator, inventor and disruptor of conventional science.

Johnston and his interdisciplinary team have developed a system for continuous, comprehensive, inexpensive health monitoring known as immunosignature diagnostics. More recently, his team successfully answered a call from the U.S. Department of Defense via the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency, or DARPA, to develop a technique for producing 1,000 doses of an antimicrobial in a week — a discovery that will potentially safeguard populations that are threatened by infections and outbreaks of Ebola and Zika.  

Top photo courtesy of

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ASU's year in review 2017

December 21, 2017

A roundup of some of the university's top stories, milestones and triumphs

There was no shortage of changes for the nation and Arizona State University in 2017. In a year that celebrated the 15th anniversary of the New American University, the faculty, staff and students have made advancements in many fields of research, formed new partnerships and found innovative ways to help the communities they serve.

Related: Photos of the year from Charlie Leight and Deanna Dent and top 2017 video stories from Ken Fagan.

Here are some of the top stories of 2017:


ASU researchers and scientists were busy this year, with new findings in many fields, including tuberculosis testing, the effects of divorce and autism treatment. Not to mention a thumbs-up on a NASA mission.


From the 15th anniversary of the New American University to a startup idea for easier parking around campus, the faculty, staff and students at ASU sought out ways to better their world.


The creative juices were flowing for ASU in 2017: 3-D printing classes, a film production employing students on the Tempe campus and a movie star's ceramics show are just a sampling.


ASU's entrepreneurial spirit got a shot in the arm in 2017 from some big-name campus visitors, high-profile appearances for Arizona-based inventors and a heck of a lot of patents.

Global Engagement

Partnerships with China, work in developing countries and a slew of international scholars — both home and abroad — led ASU's contributions to the world stage in 2017.

Arizona Impact

Students, faculty and administrators were deeply entrenched in Arizona-centric projects this year, including launching a program to shore up numbers of Arizona K-12 teachers, designing a shadier bus stop shelter for Valley Metro and optimizing the use of the Salt River bed.

Sun Devil Life

It was an eventful 2017 for past and present Sun Devils alike: an innovative new residence hall opened its doors, a magazine for Native American students launched and ASU football mourned one legend and enshrined another.

ASU News

ASU was in the headlines this year for some grade-A excitement: a record number of incoming Arizona freshmen, a global partnership with adidas, another school making its way downtown, and a threepeat in innovation rankings.

SILC partners with Municipal Credit Union to secure donated computers

December 20, 2017

The School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University, in partnership with the Municipal Credit Union in New York City, was able to provide a group of six students with computers to make their studies easier.

Recognizing that not all students have easy access to technology at home, SILC Business Operations Manager Mark Brantley used his contacts at MNU to secure 10 computers (the extra four computers are available when needed). Brantley is a former board chairman at the institution and its current director. Download Full Image

“The credit union industry philosophy/motto is ‘People Helping People,’” Brantley said, “MCU’s CEO felt this donation was in alignment with that philosophy by assisting students in their educational pursuits.”

SILC Director Nina Berman presented the computers on Nov. 29. When these student complete their education, the computers will be passed on to the next generation that needs them.

The students thanked Berman and Brantley, telling them that the computers provide them increased flexibility, and that at SILC, Brantley “is always welcoming with a smile.”


ASU ranks 5th in political science research expenditures in consecutive years

December 15, 2017

Every year the National Science Foundation (NSF) conducts its Higher Education Research and Development Survey (HERD). HERD is the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities. 

The School of Politics and Global Studies is proud to announce that, for the second year in a row, Arizona State University's political science research expenditures ranked fifth out of 480 schools in the most recent HERD survey (FY2016). ASU’s ranking in the HERD results was higher than notable schools such as Yale, University of Maryland, Stanford and Duke. See the university's overall results here. Download Full Image

Although ASU’s ranking remained at fifth this year, political science and government research expenditures saw an approximate 7 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. ASU’s expenditures for the social sciences as a whole, moved from fifth to fourth this year.

“The faculty within the school are doing a fantastic job of advancing research that links theory with real-world issues,” School of Politics and Global Studies Director Cameron Thies said. “I am glad to see the innovative work that they are doing is being recognized by a variety of funding agencies.”

Professors Reed Wood and Thorin Wright received NSF funding to collect data on human-rights abuses around the world. Their effort collects information at the sub-national level, to understand why certain places within countries have better human-rights practices than others. Through this funding, they were able to hire a post-doctoral fellow, Rebecca Cordell from the University of Essex, to join the School of Politics and Global Studies and help develop the project.

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


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SIM Fund grows endowment — and the students it serves

December 14, 2017

ASU’s student-led portfolio management program offers practical experience alongside investment professionals

Endowed funds are an important source of revenue for the long-term health of Arizona State University’s research, teaching and learning activities, but their returns are not just monetary: Each year, about 30 students gain rigorous, hands-on experience analyzing and managing a small percentage of ASU’s endowment assets as part of the Student Investment Management (SIM) Fund.

On Dec. 1, those undergraduates and master’s in business administration candidates presented their initial portfolio recommendations to investment professionals — including experts in the community, members of ASU Enterprise Partners’ Investment Committee and representatives from its outsourced chief investment officer, BlackRock Inc.

“The level of sophistication students are bringing to security analysis and portfolio construction is phenomenal. It reflects the investment depth of ASU’s SIM Fund program,” said Suzanne Peck, head of endowments and foundations at BlackRock. The firm will provide portfolio insights to students in the program as part of its new partnership with ASU. “The other thing that stood out was the quality of the oral presentations — in addition to portfolio management skills, it’s clear they’re gaining marketing skills, too.”

The SIM Fund was established in 1996 by ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business’ Department of Finance and has evolved to meet the demands of the industry. After returning to ASU from two years navigating the financial crisis at Dimensional Fund Advisors, SIM Fund Director and Jack D. Furst Professor of Finance Sunil Wahal recognized the need for experts who, in his words, “understand financial markets in a quantitative, sensible way guided by science.”

Wahal wanted to deliver students a structured experience in portfolio management and securities analysis while they earned credit toward their degrees — not merely a club-like or extra-curricular activity in the field. Though most of the 200 or so student-run funds in the country operate on “stock-picker” models, in which analysts forecast how a company will perform and buy or sell accordingly, ASU’s SIM Fund participants build quantitative portfolios, which require thorough understanding of academic theories applied to large groups of securities.

“You can think of the investment management process — the process of building portfolios themselves — as sort of an engineering problem,” said Wahal, who created a new course, “Portfolio Engineering,” for students enrolled in the SIM Fund program. “The analogy holds reasonably well: you cannot engineer a product unless you understand the science behind it. If I told you, ‘Here, go build a car,’ you wouldn’t know how to build a car unless you understand the basics of propulsion, friction, motion, etc. So, to me, it didn’t make sense that we have students build the equivalent of a car without understanding the science behind it.”

In the course, students learn about financial markets, asset allocation, portfolio chance and drivers of risk and return. From there, they evaluate original, published, academic research focused on anomalies in the market. These theories, such as the use of profitability, volatility or insider trading, have been shown to generate higher (and thus, riskier) returns.

Each of the three teams that made up this year’s SIM Fund program selected and presented one such theory. Coincidentally, each group elected to build their portfolio by linking the value and profitability of companies with relatively small or mid-range market capitalizations. After receiving feedback from faculty and the funds’ advisers, who will gather again in the spring to review results, they will execute their strategy within the restrictions mandated by the funds’ investment policy.

Paige Weisman, a senior studying math and physics, joined the SIM Fund as a junior and is leading a team this year.

“A lot of our decisions are democratic — to a point,” Weisman said of her new position. “It’s hard to put your foot down at certain times without being discouraging. You’ve always got to keep things positive and make everyone feel good about the work they’re doing.”

In addition to reviewing literature, students must identify and scrape their own data, transform signals into an optimized portfolio and, ultimately, automate each step.

“It’s a fair amount of work,” Wahal said. “And let’s not forget, these are students.”

“The professionals in this room are astounded by how well these students do,” ASU Enterprise Partners Vice President of Investments Jeff Mindlin said during the presentations. “The SIM Fund demonstrates the role of an endowment in not only sustaining the university for the future, but in making an impact for students’ education in immediate ways.”

Though the students typically produce superior returns, Wahal says the real dividend is the learning they get out of it.

The program’s alumni agree.

“SIM Fund was the single most valuable experience I had during my years as an undergraduate student at ASU,” said Dakota Boyd, who graduated in 2014 before pursuing a master of finance degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He now works as a quantitative trader at Virtu Financial. “Taking Professor Wahal’s Portfolio Engineering class and co-leading SIM Fund my senior year made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in quantitative finance.”

The experience was similar for Andrew Farber (Class of 2015), who is now an investment associate at Dimensional Fund Advisors.

“For students who are serious about finance, the SIM Fund is a great way to learn the skills and obtain the knowledge necessary to be successful in the field,” Farber said.

As the students’ careers grow, it is likely that so will the SIM Fund investments they made for the university — and in themselves.

Top photo: Students in the SIM Fund program present to investors. Photo by Asael Jimenez/Enterprise Partners

Beth Giudicessi


ASU Law establishes First Amendment clinic with gift from Stanton Foundation

December 13, 2017

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is establishing a legal clinic focused on First Amendment protections, thanks to a nearly $1 million gift from the Stanton Foundation, a private organization established by longtime CBS president Frank Stanton.

Launching in fall 2018, the First Amendment Legal Clinic will be led by ASU Law faculty member Professor James Weinstein, the Dan Cracchiolo chair in Constitutional Law, noted free-speech author and litigator of several significant free speech cases on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Weinstein will work with a full-time fellow, who will handle the clinic’s day-to-day operations, and a team of second- and third-year law students. Download Full Image

“ASU Law is dedicated to community service, and we are grateful for this gift from the Stanton Foundation, allowing us to continue supporting citizens and educating our students about the importance of civic engagement,” said Douglas Sylvester, dean of ASU Law. “As retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has expressed, we believe that clinical courses should be an integral part of a balanced education.”

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Although the amendment also addresses free exercise and establishment of religion, the clinic will not pursue religion-oriented cases. Instead, it will focus on local and regional issues involving free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

The clinic’s mission will be to:

• provide a resource for organizations, students, journalists and citizens defending and advancing First Amendment issues
• support freedom of expression and civic engagement by enhancing law students’ understanding of the First Amendment 
• produce law school graduates who, as practitioners and members of their communities, will exercise leadership in support of First Amendment values

Stanton, who served as the president of CBS from 1946 to 1971, was a fierce advocate of free speech and organized the first televised presidential debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. He died in 2006 at age 98. The Stanton Foundation was founded in 2009 to continue his philanthropic work. The foundation is thrilled to be launching the clinic with ASU as part of that mission.

Stanton was a longtime colleague and friend of CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, for whom ASU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is named, and was one of the original recipients of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. Part of the clinic’s mission will be to reach out to community TV and radio stations, local newspapers, digital media outlets and universities to assist with First Amendment cases.

“We believe there is potential for us to work with our Cronkite colleagues in several ways to support the mission of the clinic,” Sylvester said.

About the Stanton Foundation

The Stanton Foundation was created by Frank Stanton, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest executives in the history of electronic communications and one of the television industry’s founding fathers.

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Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


$52K grant empowers ASU students to solve real-world design questions

December 13, 2017

Milagros Zingoni and Wil Heywood, professors in The Design School in the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, received $52,500 from ASU alumnus Jack Furst and Isaac Manning, manager of the Sun Devil Stadium renovation project for ASU, to expand the school’s Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition

For the annual competition, which fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration and design thinking, junior students studying architecture, landscape architecture, industrial design, interior design and visual communication join together to propose solutions to a design question. A student team's idea of creative use of Sun Devil Stadium. Last year, The Design School’s Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition asked students to reinvent the idea of a stadium as a “third space” (a social space separate from work and home). Download Full Image

Last year, the competition asked students to reinvent the idea of a stadium as a “third space” (a social space separate from work and home), and some of their ideas were incorporated into plans for the Sun Devil Stadium renovation. Furst, who was 1999 Business School Hall of Fame inductee and named the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year by the ASU Foundation, is giving the school $50,000 to expand the Sun Devil Central: 3rd Place 365 cluster competition to non-design students. Manning also donated $2,500 to the effort.

“We got $52,000 to develop and implement the teaching pedagogy we have been using with the cluster project at a larger scale that can include non-design students as well,” Zingoni said. “We have so far 150 junior students from The Design School from architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, industrial design and visual communication and 70 non-design students.”

The funded proposal includes $10,000 in cash awards for students, funding for five design faculty to create an online 18-minute talk about different topics related to design thinking, and student research support to document this cross-disciplinary learning experience. 

For more information on the Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition, visit

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Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts