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Remembering Professor J. Frank Yates, 1945-2020


A beloved member of the Michigan Ross community, Professor J. Frank Yates, passed away on Nov. 19, 2020. Professor Yates was known as a wonderful colleague who was always extraordinarily thoughtful and caring. He was a mentor to countless students, faculty, and staff. He was an innovator whose positive impact will continue to be realized for many years to come. And he was a dear friend to many in the University of Michigan and Michigan Ross community. He will be greatly missed.

Professor Yates received his AB degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1967 and his MA (1969) and PhD (1971) from U-M. In 1969 he joined the U-M faculty as a lecturer, was promoted to assistant professor in 1971, and spent his entire academic career in Ann Arbor. Upon retiring in May 2020, he was the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Michigan Ross.

Serving more than 50 years on the university’s faculty, Professor Yates’ contributions were immeasurable. His groundbreaking research defined the field of judgment and decision-making. Throughout his career he was recognized with numerous awards and honors, including election to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As the author of over 100 publications and numerous books, Professor Yates advanced our understanding of real-world decisions in business, in healthcare, and across cultures. Beyond his scholarship, he was widely recognized for his teaching excellence in the classroom and as an outstanding and generous mentor who fostered the successful careers of many students. His legacy will live on through his students for many generations to come.

Professor Yates was also a visionary and unparalleled advocate for advancing diversity in higher education. In the late 1960s, he was instrumental in forming what is perhaps the longest-standing association for Black graduate students in psychology, the U-M Black Students in Psychology Association. Then, as a graduate student in 1970, he envisioned a service to improve Black students’ academic success, which ultimately became the Comprehensive Studies Program, and a Black studies center, which became the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the U-M. In 2005 he founded and directed Michigan Ross’ Preparation Initiative, a thriving learning community designed to foster the excellence and success of undergraduate business students from economically distressed backgrounds or from racial or ethnic groups that historically have been underrepresented in business leadership. In recognition of these contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the university, Professor Yates received the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award in 2019.

Beyond his many professional contributions, he was also a loving, devoted, and proud family man to his wife, Halima Hassan; his daughter, Courtney; his son, Zachary; and his daughter-in-law, Jennifer.


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