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Dennis Tito Speaks on Business Ventures and Space Adventures

Dennis Tito and James Hahn at the Dean's Executive Leadership SeriesFormer Los Angeles mayor and
Pepperdine alumnus James Hahn with
Dennis Tito at the Dean's Executive
Leadership Series

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On March 13, 2007, Dennis Tito, CEO of Wilshire Associates Inc., captivated Pepperdine students, alumni, and guests—which included former Los Angeles mayor and Pepperdine alumnus James Hahn—with stories about his adventures as the first “space tourist.”  Mr. Tito had negotiated a $20 million deal to travel aboard the Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft with Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station in April 2001.

“Probably one of the biggest claims I have to fame is that I had more fun in space than anyone,” he said, explaining that he was the only individual who didn’t have to work while in space.  Mr. Tito shared pictures and video from his travels, which included footage of the rocket launch, images of the earth from space, and of himself literally floating around the space station.

“Nothing can explain the thrill of sitting on top of a rocket, and after eight minutes and 50 seconds, finding yourself in orbit around the earth,” he said.

From Aerospace to Finance

Mr. Tito has always had a passion for space.  He studied aerospace engineering and worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory for five years before a desire to earn more money prompted him to apply his mathematical skills to finance and start his own business, Wilshire Associates Inc.  “I went from an aerospace engineer to a financial engineer,” he explained.

Dennis Tito and Dean Livingstone at the Dean's Executive Leadership SeriesDennis Tito chats with Dean Linda

He developed the Wilshire Total Market Index, the Wilshire 5000, the broadest stock market index that Federal Reserve officials cite as a barometer of the U.S. economy.  Today, his company manages $10 billion in assets and provides analytical tools to approximately 350 institutions.

Mr. Tito expressed optimism for the U.S. economy and advised audience members not to let the fluctuations of the stock market distract them from their long-term goals.  He also discussed the importance of creativity in the business world.  “Passion and creativity go together.  If you love something so much and you think about it all the time and you reach deep into your brain, that’s what creativity is all about.  And to get people to focus on that, that’s how you’re going to succeed.”

Students and alumni responded very favorably to Mr. Tito’s presentation.  “I thought it was fascinating the way he traced his career from being an engineer to being a finance person to chasing his space dream.  That was a great evolutionary story,” said Craig Koller, Executive MBA-59.  Mr. Koller has attended previous Dean’s Executive Leadership Series presentations and enjoys hearing from leaders from the many disparate realms of business.  “I love the diversity.  That’s why I come.” 

The next speaker in the Dean’s Executive Leadership Series will be William George, professor at Harvard Business School and former chair and CEO of Medtronic.  Mr. George will speak at the Drescher Graduate Campus on April 10, 2007.