As an undergraduate, Bob Muh '59 got a firsthand lesson in how MIT fosters excellence beyond engineering and science.
“In high school I wanted to be a physicist. I was accustomed to being a top student, but as a Course 8 sophomore I was probably 24th of 25 in my class,” he recalls. So he transferred from physics into the School of Industrial Management, now the Sloan School, and “suddenly I could excel again.”
Muh, who supplemented his SB with MBA and master of philosophy degrees from Columbia University, built a distinguished career in finance. He held senior positions at several major firms before cofounding, in 1992, Sutter Securities, a San Francisco–based investment banking firm where he is CEO. He was recently elected to the board of governors of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the nongovernmental organization charged with overseeing U.S. brokerage firms. In addition, he is a trustee of the Culinary Institute of America and an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco.
At every step, Muh has maintained ties across MIT, including serving as Alumni Association president and on the Sloan School and Humanities Visiting Committees. After a stint as a member of the MIT Corporation, he became an emeritus life member. His experience chairing the humanities committee prompted his most visible Institute gift, which established the biennial Robert A. Muh Alumni Award in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS).
The world recognizes MIT’s premier status in science and engineering, but that also extends into the HASS disciplines, where MIT is on par with anyone in the world. That’s the Institute mentality: whatever we do, do it with excellence,” he says. “HASS degree holders have made world-class contributions, and I enjoy shining a light on some of them.”
Honorees include former secretary of state George Shultz, PhD ’49; Sloan Distinguished Professor of Finance Robert Merton, PhD ’70; and internationally acclaimed cellist Carlos Prieto ’58.
Muh is still close to his Sigma Alpha Mu brothers Fred Kayne ’60 and Leon Borstein ’61. “Every year or so we take a boys’ vacation together—with our wives’ permission, of course,” he says. He and Kayne also raise trotting horses, including 1994 Breeders’ Cup winner Pine Chip.
Muh’s wife, Berit, whom he met when he was an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia, serves as CFO of Sutter Securities. They have two daughters: Carrie Muh ’96, SM ’97, is a pediatric neurosurgeon at Duke University Hospital, and Alison, a Brown graduate, recently completed a master’s degree in interior architecture.
The article originally appeared in March/April 2017 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine.