Foster School remembers impactful finance professor Kathy Dewenter

Kathy Dewenter

Kathy Dewenter, a distinguished scholar and educator at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, died February 16 after battling cancer for more than a year.

The Foster School will host a memorial for Professor Dewenter on Thursday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. in Anthony’s Forum on the third floor of Dempsey Hall. The public is welcome to come celebrate her life and the impact she had on so many in the Foster community.

That impact was tremendous. Dewenter, the Joshua Green Family Endowed Professor at Foster, was a well-published expert in international finance, a respected colleague in the Department of Finance and Business Economics, a recipient of the PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a powerful force for global business education at the school.

International perspective

Her international perspective can be traced back to her childhood.

Kathryn Louise Dewenter was born into the family of John R. Dewenter, a naval aviator (and one-time Blue Angel) and Patricia Ann Wilhour Dewenter. She grew up on military bases and graduated from the Hong Kong International School.

Returning to the United States for college, Dewenter earned a BA in economics and Asian studies from Tufts University, co-captaining the women’s squash team and graduating summa cum laude.

Fluent in Chinese, she worked for Chemical Bank in New York and in Asia for a couple of years before earning an MBA in international business and an MA in international policy studies at Stanford in the mid-1980s. There, she was a founding board member of the MBA Challenge For Charity (C4C), the enduring annual competition among prominent West Coast b-schools to volunteer the most hours and raise the most money in support of local non-profits.

After a three-year stint consulting with McKinsey & Company in New York, Dewenter completed a PhD in international economics at the University of Chicago. For her work there, she was named finalist for the Academy of International Business R.N. Farmer Dissertation Award.

A scholar’s scholar

Dewenter joined the Foster faculty in 1992. She embarked on a productive research career, examining many aspects of international corporate finance including banking regulation, foreign currency exposure, stock market competition, and sovereign wealth funds and privatization—and publishing in the field’s most influential journals.

She was, perhaps, even better known as an exemplary educator.

Dewenter served as faculty director of the Global Business Center from 2000 to 2006, and continued to teach courses in international finance and international strategy, offering expert guidance to the often familiar territories of the global economy in courses that have proven indispensable to the well-rounded manager. She taught both MBA and undergraduate students, and excelled at both.

The key was balancing the high expectations set out by her seriously demanding curriculum with genuine care for her students.

Kathy Dewenter accepts the 2016 PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching.

This powerful ability earned numerous accolades, including the William A. & Helen I. Fowler Endowment for Special Achievement/Recognition Award (2002), the Andrew V. Smith Faculty Development Award (2006), and the Undergraduate Professor of the Year for Finance and Business Economics (2008).

Dewenter’s teaching career culminated in the receipt of the 2016 PACCAR Award, the school’s highest teaching honor, selected each year by a panel of Foster MBA students.

Those students described Dewenter’s transcendent impact in terms of unalloyed MBA adulation such as “challenging,” “inspiring” and “amazing.”

Living legacy

For them, the best may be yet to come.

“Students who graduated five or ten years ago will often include Kathy among the most impactful people in their careers,” says long-time friend and colleague Jennifer Koski, the Kirby L. Cramer Endowed Chair in Finance at Foster. “Because what she did was teach them to think at a level of rigor that can’t fully be appreciated right away. It takes some time to realize how much of a difference she has made for them.”

Koski adds that Dewenter was a constant source of friendship, collaboration and sage advice to her and fellow faculty of the Department of Finance and Business Economics.

She treasured her family and was devoted to her husband, Roger Kohn, and sons Jacob and Jonas.

And to her students, she was enlightenment itself.

Dewenter was teaching Foster undergrads two weeks before her passing. “In my last phone conversation with her,” Koski says, “she was making sure that someone could cover her classes. She was just so committed to her students.”

A memorial for Kathy Dewenter will take place Thursday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m. in Anthony’s Forum on the third floor of Dempsey Hall. The public is welcome.

The Foster School has established the Kathryn Dewenter Memorial Scholarship in Kathy’s memory. If you would like to contribute to this scholarship fund, click here.

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