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Published September 03, 2020
When David Finnoff, recipient of the University of Wyoming College of Business McMurry Summer Research Fellowship, was introduced to Mick and Susie McMurry in the mid-1990s, he knew right away he was in the company of an extraordinary couple.
He reflects fondly on their conversations, particularly Mick’s brilliant spirit.
“I love economic history and was fascinated by Mick talking about early oil production in Wyoming and his family history,” Finnoff says. “Mick’s love of aviation resounded with me, and I really enjoyed stories of his father’s exploits in his Beechcraft Baron.”
Mick and Susie’s dedication to their community has greatly influenced Finnoff. Both were strongly devoted to Wyoming, focusing especially on vulnerable and high-risk communities. As the McMurrys shared with him their passion about creating opportunities throughout the state, he became captivated by their commitment.
If you’re from Wyoming, chances are you’ve benefited from the McMurry family’s immense generosity as well. Through the McMurry Foundation, they’ve invested extensively in the state, giving major gifts to UW, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Wyoming Medical Center, the Casper Family YMCA and many more organizations.
For Finnoff, the McMurrys embody Wyoming compassion through their inclusiveness and enthusiasm for philanthropy. Working together for the common good is an interest he shared with Mick and Susie. It also has been the focus of his life’s work.
Although he was born in Boulder, Colo., Finnoff grew up in the United Kingdom. He lived near Edinburgh in Scotland and finished high school in York, England, where he played rugby. Growing up in the U.K. during the 1980s shaped him to think globally.
In the fall of 1990, he began his undergraduate studies at UW. He continued to play rugby for the UW men’s rugby team, something that’s played a big role in his life.
“Being a part of a rugby team represents being part of a tight-knit group of people who are willing to work incredibly hard for team success and being dedicated to being part of something that is greater than yourself,” Finnoff says.
Originally, he intended to pursue UW’s atmospheric science program. However, he was encouraged by his professors to consider the world of economics.
“As an undergrad, I took classes from professors in our Department of Economics that opened my eyes to the breadth and depth of economics. Bill Morgan, Curtis Cramer and Ralph D’Arge were all world-renowned in their fields, advising industry, state government, federal government and the United Nations,” Finnoff says. “They brought all of this into the classroom. It just seemed like the most interesting and important stuff I had ever heard.”
The important stuff that he’s referring to is at the heart of economics: understanding how a society will react, sustain and survive during any given circumstance. For him, the goal is uncovering opportunities that create value, specifically opportunities society may overlook.
“I have been really influenced by my colleagues John Tschirhart, Jay Shogren and Tom Crocker, who guided me to understand the power of economic analysis,” Finnoff says. “However, it has been the commitment of these individuals not only to me but all of our students over the years that has really affected me. It is the accomplishments of these students as they go out and conduct great work all over the world that matters. This commitment to building and sustaining the ‘Wyoming Team’ has influenced me most.”
Finnoff is now a UW economics professor and head coach of the UW men’s rugby team. He’s dedicated to his team members and involved in some of the most interesting research imaginable. He works with his students and prepares them to compete with the best in the country.
In the wake of the global health crisis, Finnoff rapidly adapted his research agenda. He has been focused on the economic effects of the novel coronavirus. Searching for solutions in the midst of a crisis requires commitment, the ability to think boldly and compassion for others -- qualities that have been a focus for Finnoff throughout his career.
Receiving the McMurry Summer Research Fellowship has made it possible for him to continue his important work and to carry on the legacy of the McMurry family, a pursuit in which he feels privileged.
“I was always just so impressed with Mick and Susie’s dedication and commitment to the community around them,” Finnoff says. “How they truly cared about those most at risk, and how they were keenly focused on providing opportunities to all in society. To me, this fellowship epitomizes the values that come to mind when I think about Mick and Susie: team culture, success and leadership. I could not be more honored.”