Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

John Seo

Westport, CT

John Seo was raised in Dallas, the son of a professor at Southern Methodist University. One day when he was 14, he stood on the steps of that university’s library, awed by its massive columns.

“I realized right then that I had been benefiting from that library all my life,” he says. “I was determined that day that no matter where I went to school, I was going to give back to my alma mater.”

Seo–who earned a degree in physics from MIT in 1988–recently kept his promise, making a major gift to the Institute to support student leadership.

“The best outcome for my gift is that it helps produce more future leaders from MIT,” he says. “I have faith that every leader who emerges from the Institute will have a significant impact on the world.”

After MIT, Seo earned a PhD in biophysics from Harvard. Then, following in the footsteps of his father, an economist, he gravitated toward investment management. That career began at O’Connor and Associates at the Chicago Board of Trade, where he traded exotic derivatives. He joined Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette as a senior trader in 1995 before spending a year at the Harvard Management Company, managing a portion of Harvard University’s endowment. Next, he became a trader at Lehman Brothers, where he specialized in catastrophe bonds. Three years later, he and his brother Nelson launched Fermat Capital Management, now the largest investment manager of catastrophe bonds in the world.

Seo and his wife, Stella, who trained as a concert pianist at Juilliard, have five children. Seo enjoys fishing, travel, and socializing with family members who live nearby: his parents; brothers Nelson ‘90, Scott ‘92, and Michael; and seven nieces and nephews.

With his gift to MIT, Seo hopes to help students avoid the problems that he has seen befall so many people with good ideas.

“Brains without leadership skills carry you only so far,” he says. “The typical MIT grad has technical ability at levels well beyond the threshold required to succeed. But it’s not so obvious that they’re always that much over the threshold in leadership abilities. If this gift makes it possible for just one more leader to emerge from MIT than would otherwise have been the case, that would be enough for me.”

For giving information, contact Rob Scott: 617-253-3394;
rscott@mit.edu. Or visit giving.mit.edu.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way
supermassive black hole at center of Milky Way

This is the first image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy

The stunning image was made possible by linking eight existing radio observatories across the globe.

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.