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.