Robert M. Oliver

May 5, 1931

Brief Biography

Oliver Presidential Gallery Portrait

Robert M. Oliver was the twenty-second president of the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA). Oliver was responsible for organizing joint meetings between ORSA and The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS).  He improved the process by which publications of the organizations (Operations Research and Management Science) were publicized, so as to expand their readership.  Oliver was responsible for bundling and pricing international journals for ORSA and TIMS members, negotiating subscription deals for the United Kingdom’s O.R. Quarterly. He also played a significant role in bringing the operations research community closer to that of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).  

Oliver was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the Dominican Republic. He attended Exeter followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor of science. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and spent two years abroad at the University of London. Oliver returned to MIT to study Operations Research at the PhD level. His dissertation dealt with the analysis of inventory and production control systems.

Upon graduation, Oliver accepted a position as Director of Broadview Research Corporation’s Management Science Division. He shortly after joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley when Ron Shephard and George Dantzig asked Philip Morse if he knew anyone in the Bay Area who could teach a course for one of their colleagues on sebbatical. At Berkeley, Oliver served as Chairman of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (1964-69), Director of the Operations Research Center (1972-75), and Dean for Research in the College of Engineering. Though officially retired since 1993, Oliver remains affiliated with the university as professor emeritus.

Oliver’s research and teaching interests include the prediction of rare events and the evaluation of the risk associated with them. This has covered the study of preparation for nuclear accidents, mid-air collisions, and fraud detection. On the topic of banking fraud, Oliver has designed analytical models and strategies for early detection and control. The negotiation strategies he's developed are in active use by lenders and borrowers alike. Oliver has also done work on credit risk scoring and management, designing predictive methods to control financial risks.

Oliver was a board member of the Fair Isaac Corporation (1985-2003), a company prominent in credit risk scoring in the form of the FICA score, and became its Chairman in 1995. At Fair Isaac, he helped secure government consulting work for the company. . Additionally, Oliver was appointed a member of the Board of Trustees of Analytical Services, Inc., a nonprofit public service institute more commonly known as  ANSER Corporation, in 1969. Starting in 1989, He served as Chairman of the board, leaving that position in 2005. Given his experience with risk preparation and analysis, Oliver played an instrumental role in establishing the Homeland Security Institute of the newly formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Oliver was elected in the inaugural class of Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences Fellow in 2002. In 2006, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, recognized for his leadership in the development of financial engineering and the application of operations research to important public problems. Oliver’s paper (co-written with Aryeh Samuel) on the optimal scheduling of U.S. Postal Office Mail Flow received the Lanchester Prize in 1962.

Other Biographies

INFORMS. Miser-Harris Presidential Gallery: Robert M. Oliver. Accessed March 10, 2015. (link)

University of California, Berkeley Industrial Engineering & Operations Research. Faculty: Robert M. Oliver. Accessed March 14, 2019.  (link)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, BS 1952

University of London, Fulbright Scholar 1953-1954

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD 1957 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • Broadview Research Corporation
  • Fair Isaac Corp
  • ANSER Corporation

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas
  • Postal Service

Awards and Honors

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1962

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

National Academy of Engineering Member 2006

Professional Service

Operations Research Society of America, President 1973

Selected Publications

Oliver R. M. & Samuel A. H. (1962) Reducing Letter Delays in Post Offices. Operations Research, 10(6): 839.

Hopkins D. S. P. & Oliver R. M. (1972) An Equilibrium Flow Model of a University Campus. Operations Research, 20(2): 249-264.

Oliver R. M. & Potts R. B. (1972) Flows in Transportation Networks. Academic Press, Inc.: Waltham, MA.

Chow T.C., Oliver R. M., & Vignaux G. A. (1990) A Bayesian Escalation Model to Predict Nuclear Accidents and Risk. Operations Research, 38(2): 265-277,

Oliver R. M. & Smith J. Q. (1990) Influence Diagrams, Belief Nets and Decision Analysis, Proceedings of the Berkeley Influence Diagram Conference. Wiley & Sons: New York.

Marshall K. T. & Oliver R. M. (1995) Decision Making and Forecasting: Model Building and Policy Analysis.McGraw-Hill: New York.