Finis Welch came from humble beginnings. He was the youngest of 13 children, born in Olney, Texas. The family moved to South Houston (Pasadena) Texas when Finis was very young. His father worked in the Texas oil fields and his mother was a schoolteacher. Growing up Finis was an active member of the local FFA and 4-H chapters. He raised and successfully showed various livestock, including sheep, turkeys, chickens, and cattle. Finis graduated from Pasadena High School in 1956.
In the fall of 1956, Finis 18 years old, was enrolled in his first semester at the University of Houston studying to be an engineer with plans to go into business raising livestock with his father. In November that year, was when everything changed. His father suffered a heart attack and passed away suddenly. Less than two weeks after his father’s death, Finis who was the state FFA Vice President was on his way to an FFA-related television appearance and was involved in a vehicle crash that left him with a serious spinal cord injury. The doctors’ prognosis was that Finis would never walk again and more than likely would not live into early middle age.
Finis Welch had other plans. He spent a full two years recovering from the accident, then returned to the University of Houston as a full-time student. However there were few if any accommodations for handicapped people back then. During his recovery Finis began lifting weights so he could use crutches and braces to get around campus. Determination and aggressive therapy helped him stay out of a wheelchair for many years.
Finis graduated with a degree in Mathematics and Agricultural Economics from the University of Houston in 1961. However, Finis decided he was not done with his education yet. The young man that overcame so much confidently applied to the University of Chicago (UOC) and was accepted into their Economics Department. Standards at the UOC were and continue to be among the most rigorous in the world, and there’s no patience for less than outstanding. While in his last year as a student at Chicago, Finis was asked to join the Department of Economics faculty. He earned his doctoral degree from the UOC in 1966 by presenting his dissertation on The Determinants of the Return to Schooling in Rural Farm Areas.
Finis taught economics for an academic career that spanned 40 years. During that time, he taught, in chronological order, at the University of Chicago, Southern Methodist University, Yale University, the City University of New York — where he served as Executive Officer of the Ph.D. Program in Economics — the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Texas A&M University. Finis went on to become a distinguished Professor Emeritus of economics at Texas A&M University and the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
Finis founded Welch Consulting in 1978 to provide consulting and testifying services to the labor and employment community. Welch Consulting, Ltd. clients included major law firms and leading corporations in nearly every industry throughout the United States, with extensive work in the United Kingdom and South America. Welch Consulting, Ltd. housed offices in Bryan, Texas; Los Angeles, California; and Washington, D.C. Finis served as the President of Welch Consulting, Ltd. for over 42 years.
Finis was cofounder of StataCorp LLC. Stata was first released in 1985. For over 35 years StataCorp has been a leader in statistical software, dedicated to providing the tools professional researchers need to analyze their data. StataCorp has grown into a worldwide multi-million dollar company.
Finis published over 100 articles in professional journals, monographs and books. He served on the editorial boards of several professional journals including the American Economic Review and the Journal of Labor Economics. Finis was a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the Econometric Society and a fellow of the Society of Labor Economists. He served as vice president of the American Economic Association and vice president and president of the Society of Labor Economists. His achievements in labor economics earned him the prestigious Jacob Mincer Award in 2007.
In 1987 Finis bought 130 acres near Centerville, Texas what would become Center Ranch. At Finis’ passing Center Ranch encompassed more than 10,000 acres and included an equine veterinary center. Center Ranch was home to Woody Be Tuff, a cutting horse breeding stallion that has sired multi-million dollar award winning offspring including CR Tuff Hearted Cat, the 2012 Futurity Co-Champion. The Futurity is the premier National Cutting Horse competition held in December of each year. In addition to cutting horses, Center Ranch produced hay and cattle. A wonderful article on Center Ranch and Finis was published in the Quarter Horse News in December of 2011, 10 years before his death. Follow the link below to read more.
The Welch Scholar logo incorporates the Center Ranch brand, the Sigma. Sigma is a mathematical symbol used in statistics and econometrics, fields that were the foundation of Finis’ academic and business careers. As Finis discusses in the 2011 Quarter Horse News article, to Finis the brand represented the area between start and finish, between growing up as the kid of a Texas oilfield worker and realizing all his successes. Finis was a world-renowned economist, a highly successful entrepreneur, and an accomplished rancher. Finis’ memorial service was a blending of his worlds as people from academia, business and ranching gathered together to honor a highly unique and successful man.
The Finis Welch Foundation was formed from Finis’ desire to promote the importance and value of education, and the impact having an education can have on individual lives. The bulk of the Welch estate was left to the foundation with instruction to grow the assets to support Welch Scholars into the future.
Finis the Founder
Board of Directors
Kevin M. Murphy
Kevin M. Murphy is the first professor at a business school to be chosen as a MacArthur Fellow. He was selected for “revealing economic forces shaping vital social phenomena such as wage inequality, unemployment, addiction, medical research, and economic growth.” The foundation felt his work “challenges preconceived notions and attacks seemingly intractable economic questions, placing them on a sound empirical and theoretical footing.”
Robert H. Topel
Robert H. Topel conducts research on many areas of economics including labor economics, industrial organization and antitrust, business strategy, health economics, energy economics, national security economics, economic growth, and public policy. He is the Co-Director of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago.
Lara was named the Finis Welch Foundation Executive Director and President in March 2022. She was an original board member of the Foundation working closely with the founder, Finis Welch, in the creation and management of the Foundation from its inception in 2011.
Senator Gramm joined Lone Star Global Acquisitions as Vice Chairman in December of 2012. He served as Vice Chairman of UBS Investment Bank from December 2002 to December 2011.
Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm
Wendy Lee Gramm was Chairman of the Board of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and founder of the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She holds a BA degree from Wellesley College and a PhD from Northwestern University, both in economics. She started her career at Texas A&M University, where she taught economics for over 8 years.
Kevin M. Murphy
In 2007, Murphy and fellow Chicago Booth faculty member Robert Topel won the Kenneth J. Arrow Award for the best research paper in health economics for “The Value of Health and Longevity,” published in the Journal of Political Economy. The award is given annually by the International Health Economics Association.
A fellow of the Econometric Society and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Murphy was a John Bates Clark Medalist in 1997. He has received fellowships from the Earhart Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Friedman Fund.
Murphy is also the author of two books and many academic articles. His writing also has been published in numerous mainstream publications including the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and two Wall Street Journal articles coauthored by Nobel laureate Gary Becker.
Murphy earned his PhD in 1986 from the University of Chicago after graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1981. He joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 1984.
Senator Gramm served six years in the US House and eighteen years in the US Senate. His legislative record includes landmark bills like the Gramm-Latta Budget, which reduced federal spending, rebuilt national defense and mandated the Reagan tax cut, and the Gramm-Rudman Act, which placed the first binding constraints on federal spending. As Chairman of the Banking Committee, Senator Gramm steered through legislation modernizing banking, insurance and securities law, which had been languishing in Congress for 60 years. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed banks, securities firms and insurance companies to affiliate as part of a Financial Services Holding Company. Gramm is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Phil Gramm holds a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in economics, the subject he taught at Texas A&M University for 12 years. He has published numerous articles and books, including The Myth of American Inequality published in 2022.
He is married to Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm, former Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission under Presidents Reagan and Bush. They have two sons and five grandchildren.
Lara was hired by Welch Consulting in 2000. In 2005 she was promoted to CFO. By 2020 in addition to her financial responsibilities, Lara was managing the day-to-day operations of the company. Throughout her tenure at Welch Consulting, Finis looked to Lara to help him manage his other businesses as well as his personal affairs. After Finis’ passing, she has worked closely with Kevin Murphy, the estate executor, to administer Finis’ estate.
Lara has always lived in college towns. She was born in Champaign Urbana, Illinois, grew up in Pullman, Washington and has now lived in College Station, Texas over 30 years. Lara is a graduate of Washington State University, earning a degree in Agricultural Economics. She is a member of First Baptist Church College Station. While raising her children she taught Sunday School, was active in the local PTO organization and was chair and co-chair of the After Prom Bash for a number of years. Lara donated many hours to her children’s club sports teams and did not miss many games. Lara and her husband, David, reside in College Station and have two grown children.
Robert H. Topel
Topel and fellow Chicago Booth faculty member Kevin Murphy won the 2007 Kenneth J. Arrow Award for the best research paper in health economics. The award is given annually by the International Health Economics Association. They were cited for their paper “The Value of Health and Longevity,” published in the Journal of Political Economy. The award is given annually by the International Health Economics Association.
Topel is the author of several books. These include The Welfare State in Transition with Richard Freeman and Birgitta Swedenborg, Labor Market Data and Measurement with John Haltiwanger and Marilyn Manser, and Measuring the Gains from Medical Research: An Economic Approach with Kevin M. Murphy. Topel has written more than 70 articles and monographs in professional journals.
Topel is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, an elected member of the Conference for Research on Income and Wealth, an elected founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. He has held visiting and research positions at a number of institutions, including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the World Bank, the Economics Research Center of the National Opinion Research Center, and the Rand Corporation.
From 1993 to 2003 he served as editor of the Journal of Political Economy, and from 1991 to 1993 he was a member of the editorial board of the American Economic Review, the two leading professional journals in economics. Topel was also a founding editor of the Journal of Labor Economics. In 2004, he was elected an inaugural Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, and the following year he received the Research America Eugene Garfield Prize for Medical and Health Research.
Topel has been at the University of Chicago since 1979, with the exception of an appointment as a Professor of Economics at UCLA in 1986. In 2006, he was the Kirby Distinguished Visiting Professor of Economics at Texas A&M University. He is also a founding partner of Chicago Partners, LLC.
He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1974 and a PhD in economics from UCLA in 1980.
Dr. Wendy Lee Gramm
Wendy served as Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1988-1993. She was Administrator for Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget from 1985-1988 and before that the Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Economics.
She has served as a board member for companies such as State Farm Insurance and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Dr. Gramm is married to former Senator Phil Gramm and they have 2 sons and 5 grandchildren.