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In Memoriam

Remembering Heikki Rantakari

Simon mourns the loss of renowned economics professor.

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Heikki Rantakari's untimely death sent shockwaves through the Simon Business School and beyond. News of his passing has left the Simon community stunned and created a void deeply felt by family, friends, colleagues, and students.   

Rantakari was an associate professor of economics and management at Simon Business School and was also a visiting associate professor of applied economics at MIT's Sloan School of Management. He was widely recognized for his contributions to the fields of applied microeconomic theory and organizational economics, leaving an enduring mark in these fields.

Beyond his significant research accomplishments, Rantakari played a pivotal role in the Simon community, where he taught the core MBA Managerial Economics course as well as a very popular Game Theory elective for many years. He also led the school’s MBA curriculum committee. His dedication to education was evident in his remarkable patience, passion for learning, and unwavering commitment to his students. 

Rantakari's academic journey was characterized by his relentless pursuit of knowledge. He earned his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE) and completed his PhD in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His contributions to his field earned him the respect and admiration of colleagues and students alike.

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In the words of Sevin Yeltekin, the dean of Simon Business School, "Heikki Rantakari's impact on the field of economics through his research is a testament to his dedication and passion. He was not only a dedicated scholar but also a mentor and a source of inspiration for many students. His loss is deeply felt, and our hearts go out to his family, friends, and all those fortunate enough to have known him."

Rantakari's research included significant publications such as “The Art of Brevity” with co-author Ricardo Alonso in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 195, pp.257-271; “Managerial Influence and Organizational Performance” in the Journal of European Economic Association, 19 (2), pp.1116-1161, and “The Politics of Compromise,” with co-author Alessandro Bonatti in American Economic Review. He also had several forthcoming papers including “Simon Says? Equilibrium Obedience and the Limits of Authority” and “How to Reward Honesty” both in the Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization. His work shed light on the complexities of decision-making within organizations and their economic implications. 

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“Heikki was known to all as a deep thinker whose light shone brightly,” said Michael Raith, associate professor at Simon. “Among scholars, his contributions to organizational economics and applied microeconomic theory will continue to be influential. No less important, here at Simon we will remember Heikki as an excellent teacher, a dedicated and generous colleague, and a great friend.”

In addition to his academic pursuits, friends remember Rantakari’s passions for painting, playing the guitar, and following baseball. He is survived by his wife, Noelle, and many family members including his mother, a younger sister, and extended family in Finland

In remembrance, we honor Heikki’s contributions to the academic world and the indelible mark he left on Simon Business School. His memory will forever be cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
 

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Heikki Rantakari tribute jersey in NYC Marathon 

On November 5, Simon STEM MBA candidate Chris Park ’25S (MBA) ran in the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon. In honor of Professor Heikki Rantakari, Park wore a very special Simon jersey with messages and signatures from people throughout the Simon community who wished to express their appreciation for Professor Rantakari and the positive influence he had on their lives.

The jersey included touching tributes written by students in the MBA classes of ’25 and ’24, the members of Simon’s Graduate Business Council, staff of the Ainslie Office of Student Engagement, and various faculty and staff of Simon Business School: 

  • “Your positive outlook on people and life is my favorite lesson learned.”

  • “Solid as rock on the outside, and cake on the inside—that was Heikki. Thank you!!”

  • “You were a great light here at Simon, thank you for sharing it.”

  • “Dear Heikki, your advice about life will always stay with me. Shine bright!”

  • “You said your class was a sunk cost. But it was not a cost, it was priceless value for us.”

 

After the race, the jersey was given to Dr. Rantakari’s wife Noelle as an expression of gratitude for his commitment, mentorship, and friendship.

 

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In Memoriam Comments

You are an amazing role model for me, and it all started on the first day of Simon’s class. May your brilliance live long here in Simon.

In reply to by Marco Gilbert (not verified)

I am not a smart student and you have gave your patience, efforts, kindness and inspiration to me! I will always remember and learn from you to pass on this kindness and help to others

You will be remembered always! Thank you for touching our souls with your kindness and knowledge

In what could've been the hardest subject I'd taken in my life, you somehow made it possible for me to believe in myself and guided me so much. Thank you Heikki, for being a source of inspiration for us all.

Our first MBA level class with Heikki opened a new door that I didn't know existed for me. His teachings and vigor made me feel a level of intelligence I hadn't felt before. For that, I am so deeply thankful and blessed.

You were an amazing teacher and went out of your way to help students with your classes. Thank you for your contribution to Simon and the lives of students.

You hoped that I would continue liking Game Theory after the last "big" class, well, I loved it even more after that! Thank you for all the amazing lectures and for even better company. You are my first memory of my MBA journey and that is a beautiful thought. Rest peacefully, Heikki!

Thank you for your wisdom and love. Rest in peace.

I can't say enough here (really I can't, due to character limits) about how fantastic of a professor I found Heikki to be. I often think about and use the concepts I learned in his courses. He's greatly missed by all Simonites. Heikki influenced me greatly and I am forever grateful to have met him and learned from him.

You made me fall back in love with Economics. I learnt the subject in a way I never had before, thanks to you. Thank you for making such a huge impact on us in the first month itself of our MBA journey. You will always be missed!

Dear Heikki, you were a true scholar with no agenda. I will forever miss our conversations and working together on our paper.

God took a masterpiece home. A unique talent, beautiful mind & gentle soul. We deeply mourn our earthly loss but await the sweet day we reunite with our Heikki again in heaven. Until then, his spirit remains with us. We are deeply touched by his vast impact and moved by the outpouring of love & support. Forever in our hearts.

Our IB class knew and thought off you as the one who would receive a Nobel prize some day, though we didn't quite know yet in which subject, as you excelled in everything. Even in a class of goof students you stood above the rest. Your death shocked us all and set us mourning. It is still hard too believe you are gpne.

Among the many comments I see (from H's former students, colleagues, family, and even Finnish peers), there's a similar theme: Heikki was uniquely unassuming, brilliant, and engaged. As one of his former teachers in Finland, I took pleasure in watching his academic ascent, now I join this group in mourning, but also remembering what a fantastic person he was.

I’ve met many educators throughout my academic career. Undoubtedly, there are some who stand out above the rest. Heikki Rantakari was one of those professors. Last year, when I was experiencing severe self-sabotage / imposter syndrome as a first-year business school student pivoting from another industry, the advice he shared gave me a sense of peace and I felt seen and heard. This world is brilliant because of its educators, the individuals who commit themselves to teaching others so their stu

Heikki — your org econ friends around the world miss you! Great sense of humor, deep insights and kindness made you special!

It is fitting that Heikki was born March 14, 1079 - exactly 100 years after Einstein. "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy" -John 16:22

You were an amazing professor. You were there for your students and honest. Thank you for all that you are~

RIP Heikki! I’m deeply saddened by your passing. I’m beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to take your Managerial Economics course and I had the opportunity to get to know you personally. When I attended office hours, you made sure I left feeling confident and that I understood the material. Thank you for always showing up for the Simon community. It was always a pleasure seeing you at Simon events. I’m glad that you received your flowers at the Simon Class of 2023 MBA graduation. The Simo

Heikki was my first professor as I became a student again for the first time in 10 years. I will forever appreciate his personality and teaching style setting me off on the right foot in my MBA program. I still recall his object lessons when reading about economic issues in the marketplace. He was a special educator, and I am grateful to have shared a small slice of time with him. My condolences to his family and loved ones.

Thank you for sharing with us your wit and love for economics. Our time with you was short but the memories will live on forever. You set the benchmark for us and helped us settle in during our first month back at school. You are missed, gone but never forgotten.

I met Heikki when he first came to Simon. I will miss him greatly. He was a great teacher and team player. His research was first rate and interesting. He served the school in many other ways, such as in chairing the Full-time MBA Committee and recruiting of new faculty members.

Truly one of the best professors I have had the chance to learn from. Your legacy will live on forever and we will cherish all the moments we spent in your classroom. So proud to be one of your student!

Heikki is one of the best professors who derserve a lot of respect. Last year, I had the chance to take the course Game Theory. His charming voice and clear logic to explan explicitly for every details in the class still echo in my mind. With a heavy heart, I memorize the pleasure time when we talked about the puzzles in the office. All the time and experience with Hekki is, and will be, a treasure of my life

Heikki was not just a wonderful and caring professor, he was also an extremely kind and generous person. He was not one to seek attention, but made the space just a little lighter and more cheerful just being in it. Heikki, we'll continue to draw inspiration from your positive attitude and ability to bring smiles into people's lives.

Thanks for the memories Heikki. My favorite memory will always be when you came into our Gaming Club Event on casino games and taught everyone how to gamble. After learning craps, I killed it on the craps table and anytime I go into a casino I’ll think of you and your levity and brilliance. Thank you for teaching me economics and giving me my first real taste of what business is like. You helped translate business to so many people that don’t understand business, so thank you for everything.

I remember calling a friend back home in the second last week of the Game Theory class and telling them "Heikki's game theory class is the reason my entire MBA is worth it." That's how much I learnt from that class. It is one thing to be academically and professionally brilliant and it is another thing to be able to pass it on to students as a good professor. Heikki made doing both together look effortless.

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