Lewellen is famous for his dry wit and, at times, stern interactions with students, but that sternness is rooted in a genuine care about teaching.
“I’ve always expected the students to work and probably have not been kind to the ones who didn’t. Because I was always serious about teaching, I really did want to have people learn finance. I thought it was an important — maybe the most important — topic, so I needed them to get it.”
In fact, of all the awards and honors he’s been awarded, one of his most cherished is the Salgo-Noren Award for outstanding teaching in the graduate professional programs. He received the first award in 1973 and was honored with it three more times.
Charlene Sullivan, now a finance professor at Purdue, fondly remembers the master’s-level financial management course that Lewellen and Robert Johnson team taught. She went on to earn a PhD from Krannert.
“I am sure that I am not the only student of finance who would say that it was Bill’s way of ‘magically’ pulling the right answer out of a case in the last five minutes of the class that made us want to know more about the subject,” she says. “I think that is the mark of a great teacher, and Bill is that.”
Ron Lease, who earned his PhD from Krannert in 1973 and is a retired finance professor (his last position was at the University of Utah), says Lewellen was a mentor who readily offered feedback and constructive criticism on his teaching and research while he was a graduate student.
Lease’s doctoral dissertation resulted from the efforts of Lewellen, who through a friend was able to get access to individual investors’ trading histories over seven years. They also developed a questionnaire that was sent to the investors, and the study compared what the investors said they did with what they actually did.
“It was a data gold mine,” Lease says. “No one had ever had access to individual trading data at the time.” The data resulted in 15 academic papers for Lease from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. “He was the most influential professor I ever had,” Lease says. “I owe him my academic career.”
Miles yet to go
After working half-time for five years, Lewellen will officially retire next year, at an even 50 years. But slowing down is not on the horizon. In addition to spending more time with his hobbies of golf and reading, he and his wife, Eloise, are planning a series of trips to catch up again with people they’ve met and befriended over the years.
“This is bucket list time. We have a list of trips and people, while we’re still able and the people are still around,” he says.
So far, he and his wife have been to California and Nevada; Rouen, France, where one of Krannert’s international programs was once located; and Germany, where Lewellen connected with friends from GISMA Business School.
“It’s weird to be talking about 50 years,” he says. “It’s flown by. I still think I’m 40 … or another way to put it is I haven’t actually grown up yet.”