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Wellesley students fondly remember co-creator of Case-Shiller Housing Index

By Susanna Kim | October 6, 2016

Wellesley Students Fondly Remember Co-creator of Case-Shiller Housing IndexThe late economist Karl Case is known to many as the co-creator of the Case-Shiller housing index, one of the most widely used measures of housing prices in the United States. But to his former economics students, he was affectionately known as “Chip.”

Case – who co-founded the index in the 1980s – died on July 15 at the age of 69. Of the 4,000 students he taught at Wellesley College in Massachusetts during his 34 years at the school, many recall his love of teaching and his friendship.

1998 graduate Suchitra Saxena majored in economics and took a public finance seminar taught by Case. She recalls that Case and his wife invited the entire class to dinner at their home, on top of hosting international students each year for a meal or two.

“I still perk up every time I hear the Case-Shiller index mentioned on the news,” says Saxena, who recently completed a doctorate in education leadership at Harvard University.

How the Index Came to Be

During the 1980s, while studying a housing bubble in New England, Case eventually began working with Yale economist Robert Shiller. In 1991, the pair formed a company with Allan Weiss and they produced the index. Fiserv – an information-management company – purchased Case Shiller Weiss in 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal. And in 2013, data company CoreLogic acquired Case-Shiller from Fiserv.

“At the time, Case and Shiller developed the repeat sales pricing technique,” according to S&P Dow Jones, referring to the repeat sales of single-family homes. Other home price index publishers – including the Federal Housing Finance Agency – use this methodology, recognizing it as the most reliable means of measuring movements in housing prices.

S&P Dow Jones Indices has calculated data from across the U.S. since 2006, while CoreLogic began providing the data over the last year. Today, The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices measure average changes in single-family home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas monthly.

Teachable Moments

Some graduates recall that Case would sometimes make light in class about having Parkinson’s disease. He retired from teaching in 2010. The college and his family will host a special memorial celebration for him this month.

“He was lively, always smiling and joking around, and clearly really enjoyed teaching and being part of the Wellesley community,” Saxena, now a consultant, says.

Among the many groups he supported, Case was an avid fan of the college’s athletic teams.

“My sophomore year roommate was on the basketball team, and I would see him at every Wellesley athletic event I attended,” Saxena says.

Saxena returned to the college campus for her 15-year reunion and caught the end of the alumnae open house hosted by the economics department.

“I found Chip standing in the corner of the Economics department hallway, swamped by a crowd of former students, all waiting to reconnect with him, share updates from their lives, and talk finance,” she says.

“His influence on, and connection with, the thousands of Wellesley students who he taught and mentored are his real lasting legacy.”