Fortune Doesn't Smile on 'Darden's Luckiest Student'

February 21, 2007

Feb. 21, 2007 -- It turns out that all Darden students were equally lucky today. That’s what Darden School of Business professor Sam Bodily announced this morning after first-year Darden student Hideki Inoue chose a briefcase with no money in it.

The event was the culmination of a weeklong experiment in risk and randomness organized by Bodily and fellow Darden professor Phil Pfeifer. Inoue was identified as Darden’s Luckiest Student at the school’s traditional First Coffee on Feb. 19, following a series of random drawings. As such, he could have won a $17,500 scholarship — a full semester’s tuition — thanks to a “Random Act of Kindness” by an anonymous friend of the school. All he had to do to win was choose between two briefcases and pick the one that contained the money.

“How have you prepared for this challenge?” Bodily asked Inoue, who made his entrance into the Darden lobby accompanied by traditional Japanese music and wearing a samurai’s robe, headband and mask.

“Trying to do nothing special,” Inoue said. “Trying to make it enjoyable.”

As assistant professors Anton Ovchinnikov and Casey Lichtendahl — dressed in tails and top hats — entered carrying the briefcases, Bodily asked Inoue, “Have you honed your samurai skills to see through the brief cases?”

“Yes,” Inoue replied.

But before Inoue chose his briefcase, Bodily got a call from Pfeifer telling him that the “banker’s offer” was in an envelope under the “W” on the rug in the lobby. Inoue opened the envelope to reveal an offer of $5,679, considerably lower than the $8,000 Inoue had said he would accept in lieu of opening either case.

With support from a crowd of cheering Darden students, Inoue made his decision — the briefcase to his right. He popped open the locks, but luck didn’t smile upon him.

Though disappointed, Inoue said it was a “good learning experience.” The first-year Darden student hopes one day to run his own global business.

The Random Act of Kindness for Darden’s Luckiest Student was designed by Bodily and Pfeifer to provide students an opportunity to ponder the role that randomness and the abstraction of luck plays in business life. The event began a week ago with the random selection of five first-year students in the Decision Analysis course, whose ranks narrowed to three during the first round of eliminations.

The money for this year’s event will be carried forward to next year when another student will get to try her or his luck.

For more on Darden’s Random Act of Kindness event, visit