2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Ron Gebhardtsbauer, Penn State (Smeal)

Ron Gebhardtsbauer

Clinical Associate Professor, Actuarial Science

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

Ron Gebhardtsbauer joined Penn State’s Smeal College of Business after leaving his post as the senior benefits advisor to the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Finance. Prior, this actuary expert who focuses on pension and retirement benefits, was the Senior Pension Fellow and Spokesperson for the American Academy of Actuaries, a role in which he frequently testified before Congress and moderated the White House Conference on Social Security. In his pre business school days, he also advised international governments on topics from pensions to social security as the lead U.S. delegate to the International Association of Actuaries. Professor Gebhardtsbauer’s real-world experience in the realm of actuarial science has made all the difference for him as a standout business school professor. His knowledge and experience in the field has helped raise the caliber of undergraduate education in actuarial science in Smeal’s Department of Risk Management. The school also credits Gebhardtsbauer’s leadership for helping Smeal to triple–over the last five years–the number of students who passed five of the necessary exams toward actuarial science accreditation.

Age: 65

At current institution since: 2008

Education: Fellow in the Society of Actuaries with a Master of Science in Actuarial Science from Northeastern University, 1976

List of courses you currently teach: Probability Theory, Financial Mathematics, Financial Economics (Option Pricing, Derivatives Markets), Actuarial Mathematics

Fun fact about yourself: When a class has been timid at participating in a discussion or answering my questions, I’ve been known to stand on a student’s desk (like in the movie “Dead Poets Society”) and encourage them to be more confident, as they will be masters of the universe someday (in the insurance & benefits world).

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” The head of the Actuarial Program retired and I wanted his job and didn’t want to work in the U.S. Congress any longer.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I don’t know what I’d do. I guess I’d retire.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Fun (so much fun, they needn’t pay me).

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Unlike older adults, college students are still impressionable, so they listen and believe everything I say (well almost everything).

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? They believe everything I say (even when I make mistakes).  I want to teach students to think before they believe.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Passed 5 actuarial exams before graduation (on top of a double major)

What is the least favorite thing one has done? I had a student overtaken by heroin (but the good news is that a few years later he overcame it & returned to finish his actuarial degree).

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Understand the material covered (better than 2/3rds of the class), do Homework, and Participate in class discussions.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Tough, but fair

“But I would describe myself as …” Tough, but fair

What are your hobbies? Skiing, biking, hiking, swimming, body surfing, rollerblading, physical challenges (such as Ninja courses), singing, acting, theological discussions, etc.

How did you spend your summer? See above

Favorite place to vacation: Beach, Mountains, Ski Resorts, Italy

Favorite book: Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton and “The Kingdom of God is Within You” by Tolstoy

Favorite movie and/or television show: “Brother Son, Sister Moon” by Franco Zeffirelli and the many Star Trek series

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Broadway Musicals

Bucket list item #1:  Go to explore ancient ruins in Greece and Palestine/Israel

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Being Spokesperson for the actuarial profession in the U.S., and 75 of my students have become FSAs (Fellows in the Society of Actuaries)

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? Students clapping for me at the end of the semester and my Teacher of the Year award

Professor you most admire and why: Keith Crocker – he has many more Teacher of the Year Awards, and he’s heavily published and respected in his field

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? N/A

Twitter handle: N/A

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have..” Much more flexibility in changing degree requirements

“And much less of this…” Bureaucracy

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you. Happy in retirement, but still alert enough to teach a course each year