L. Dick Buell, ’78, Invests in Analytical Healthcare Research at Chicago Booth

As a philanthropist, L. Dick Buell, ’78, focuses on organizations that can have the biggest impact on the most people. That is why he plans to make a $3 million gift through his estate plans to advance analytical healthcare research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. With his gift, Buell hopes to support research that results in improved healthcare outcomes for many.

“Health care is an important and growing area of focus at Chicago Booth, both in terms of faculty research and in student aspirations,” dean Madhav Rajan said. “This generous gift will fuel Booth’s data-driven work in health care, allowing the school to have greater impact in the field, and thus improve people’s lives.”

Chicago Booth teaches students to leverage analytics to make evidence-based decisions—a framework that has impacted Buell’s philanthropic priorities as well as his decision-making throughout his career as a four-time CEO in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry: first at Griffith Laboratories, then Food Brands America, WS Brands of Willis Stein & Partners, and finally, Catalina Marketing.

“I believe the University of Chicago Booth School of Business has a superior and unequalled position in fact-based research,” Buell said. “The school’s overall focus on facts, analytics, and findings in the real world is a substantial foundation for impacting the quantitative approaches to strategies and executions in business.”

Part of the reason Buell is passionate about analytical healthcare research is his technical career background. Before focusing on the CPG industry, Buell initially pursued engineering. He enrolled at Purdue University and graduated in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and then received his license in nuclear engineering. For seven years post-graduation, he held a nuclear technology role at Babcock and Wilcox, where he often interfaced with high-level executives. Meeting with CEOs, vice presidents, and heads of departments sparked his interest in understanding the business side of these companies, which led him to pursue his MBA at Chicago Booth.

After graduation, Buell applied his problem-solving and analytical skills at McKinsey & Company before being named to leadership positions within the CPG industry and eventually founding his own consulting firm focused on private equity mergers and acquisitions.

Buell’s career has taken him to forty-four countries around the globe—from Australia, to Singapore, to France, to Chile—where he has led numerous corporations to substantial value creation. Still, his early days in nuclear power and engineering sparked an interest in technology that motivates his philanthropic decisions today.

Buell is passionate about how technological advancements, such as A.I., will impact the future of health care. He hopes Chicago Booth, whose research he compared to industry leaders such as Mayo Clinic, will contribute to a new world of medicine.

“Medicine has evolved in history in a linear fashion, incrementally—whether it's a new drug or a new way to perform an incision for surgery. By taking a preventative approach to disease, A.I. can help prevent the need for those drugs or incisions,” Buell said. “With my gift, I hope to support Chicago Booth in altering the way medicine is thought about, the research behind medicine, and, of course, the way it’s taught.”

Co-directed by Dan Adelman, Charles I. Clough, Jr. Professor of Operations Management, and Matthew Notowidigdo, professor of economics, and founded in 2020, Chicago Booth’s Healthcare Initiative is the school’s research and learning center dedicated to integrating business and medical points of view on the complex challenges facing the healthcare sector. Through collaboration between faculty members, policymakers, industry leaders, alumni, and current students, the Healthcare Initiative focuses on analytical and humanistic research and courses in order to make a positive impact on the healthcare industry.

“The Healthcare Initiative at Chicago Booth serves as a center of gravity for the diverse disciplines that engage in healthcare research at Booth and facilitates collaboration with partners across the university. It brings analytical and humanistic approaches to bear to make a positive impact on the healthcare industry,” Adelman and Notowidigdo said. “We are grateful that Dick Buell has chosen to support the Healthcare Initiative’s research efforts and interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty members, policymakers, alumni, and students.”