The following is an obituary provided by Bill’s family. The original can be found at https://kearneyfs.com/obituaries/william-thomas-ziemba where you can post your memories of Bill.
Bill was born in a small town in Western Massachusetts and became a world-renowned scholar of quantitative finance, risk control and management science. He died at home in Vancouver. He is survived by his wife, Sandra Schwartz, and daughter, Rachel Ziemba.
Bill studied at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the University of California, Berkeley, where he met his beloved wife Sandra, an economist and artist. Vancouver and the University of British Columbia became his base for global research. He had fruitful visiting professorships at the Universities of Stanford, UCLA, MIT, Chicago, Oxford, Cambridge, Bergamo, Sabanci, and the London School of Economics, among many others. He was Yamaichi Visiting professor of Finance at Tsukuba University, Japan, a visit that spurred a long-lasting interest in financial bubbles and crashes, and a research agenda on retirement issues including the award-winning Russell Yasuda Model.
Known as “Dr. Z,” Bill developed scenarios, and models and studied anomalies across any market he could think of – from Jai alai, sports betting, currencies, equities, and horse racing, seeing all as forms of investment where decisions could be studied, optimized and bets appropriately scaled.
Believing that the best way to understand a topic was to write a book, Bill wrote over 40 on topics ranging from financial markets, sports betting, anomalies, lotteries, and even Turkish flat weaves. Other ground-breaking work focused on energy supply scenarios on what became Canada’s oil sands in collaboration with Sandra. One of the publications of which he was most proud was his memoir, Adventures of a Modern Renaissance Academic in Investing and Gambling.
As an editor of many volumes and series, Bill supported the publication of key works and helped support colleagues, especially juniors as well as retrospectives for valued colleagues. He was a valued mentor.
Bridging the academic/practitioner divide, he was proud of putting theories to work, managing several investment funds over the course of his career, and advising other asset managers, while also writing papers about the findings. In addition to giving people tips on how to beat the 6/49 lottery, Bill also advised lottery commissions where projects included setting the odds for Canada’s Hockey lottery.
He worked remotely long before it became fashionable, searching out pay phones and fax machines to check market prices and keep up with colleagues. Along with his wife Sandra, and occasionally their daughter, he took lengthy journeys over academic breaks and sabbaticals or for economic conferences. Among the many treasures carried home are an extensive set of Turkish carpets, some of which were the only way to repatriate book revenues at a time of extensive Turkish capital controls. Bill loved sharing his travels. His last presentation, only days before his death, recounted stories from past visits to Turkey and the Caucasus.
Bill’s love of horse racing was sparked at an early age at Saratoga racetrack. His books on racetrack betting were inspiring to many, and he even designed calculators that would help any bettor use his system. More recently, he achieved his dreams of owning race horses and spent more time in Saratoga, NY, and Lexington, Kentucky, the home of some of his favorite horse farms.
Bill loved a good meal and good company. He also loved skiing, time in the mountains, and hosting family and friends at Whistler. Even at 80, he held a ski pass and enjoyed riding the gondola to the top of the mountain. Many of these trips involved his dear brother-in-law Joe Schwartz and extended family.
Despite facing declining health, Bill remained very active, publishing academic papers, writing regularly in Wilmott magazine, and giving lectures – even embracing zoom. His wanderlust, too, remained unquenched. While still pushing himself to publish widely, he also took pleasure from being recognized as Rachel’s dad, discussing markets with her, and in their joint projects including two books.
In lieu of flowers, in this time of peril, please support your favorite democracy-empowering or community building organization.