Darden's Luckiest Student Could Claim $18,750

February 19, 2008

February 19, 2008 — Jong-Uck (Max) Park defied the vagaries of chance and fate to become Darden’s Luckiest Student today. The first-year student survived another round of random eliminations that claimed two of his classmates who were also vying for the title of luckiest student (but were mainly competing for cash).

Park now has a chance to win $18,750 – stashed in one of two identical briefcases — but it all comes down to a matter of luck. No skill is involved. One briefcase will be laden with money, the other will be empty. His decision must be made tomorrow

At the start of the School’s traditional First Coffee, Park and fellow students Tom Dorsey, and Ivo Voynov were angling for the title of Luckiest Student. The three were asked to select manila envelopes at random; Park and Dorsey were pleased to discover their envelopes contained a smiling photograph of Dean Bob Bruner with an inscribed message wishing good luck. Alas, Voynov’s envelope contained a picture of Darden Professors Sam Bodily and Phil Pfeifer — the faculty who conceived and developed the event as a means of demonstrating the role that randomness plays in business life.

In keeping with the idea of happenstance, funding was provided by an anonymous friend of the School as a “random act of kindness.” The exercise is also part of a research experiment being conducted by Darden faculty.

Bodily, who is emcee of the event, told Voynov that although he had been eliminated from the contest, the picture of the two professors was undoubtedly a collector’s item. Voynov seemed skeptical about that claim, but exited with good cheer.

That left Park and Dorsey.

Dorsey was next to go as he lost a coin toss to determine who would become this year’s Luckiest Student and advance to the final round. Despite Dorsey’s claim that “tails never fails,” the coin landed heads-up, making Park the finalist while further illustrating the whimsy of ever-mysterious Lady Luck.

The coin was flipped by surprise guest Hideki Inoue (Class of ’08), who was Darden’s Luckiest Student in 2007. Last February, in the initial year of the exercise, Inoue prevailed in more than a week of random eliminations to win the title, which gave him a shot at a $17,500 scholarship. But he ultimately picked an empty briefcase. Inoue’s appearance this year was greeted with wild applause, as he emerged from a hiding place wearing the traditional Samurai garb of his ancestors.

Five first-year students were initially chosen at random to participate this year. Two were eliminated Feb. 18.

As the last man standing, Park now has an opportunity to select between the two identical briefcases. He will then be asked either to open the briefcase he selects or to accept a smaller, but guaranteed cash offer within a specific range. That offer will be determined by picking a numbered ball at random from a cage.

Park has already made a binding choice as to the amount he would accept as a guaranteed payout within the offered range. The outcome is entirely a matter of luck.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is a professional school that works to improve society by developing leaders in the world of practical affairs.