Faculty Member John W. O’Brien

Financial innovator and MFE founder

Headshot of John W. O'Brien.

Finance industry innovator John W. O’Brien, 85, who co-created and taught in the Haas School’s Master of Financial Engineering Program for 16 years, died October 14 after a battle with cancer.

He launched O’Brien Associates and created the O’Brien 5000 Total Market Index (later the Wilshire 5000) in 1974. After connecting with Haas professors Hayne Leland and Mark Rubinstein in 1981, he became chief executive of Leland O’Brien & Rubinstein, which pioneered dynamic hedging through portfolio insurance. In 1992, O’Brien helped launch LOR’s “SuperTrust,” which was the first exchange-traded fund.

In 2000, O’Brien created the MFE Program—the first of its kind at a business school—with former Executive Director Linda Kreitzman. As an adjunct professor, he taught his Financial Innovation course to MFE students until 2015.

Kreitzman says launching the MFE program would not have been possible without O’Brien. “John was a force of nature—charismatic, brilliant, and innovative as he developed market-revolutionary securities.”