God, Cash, YOLO: How Cathie Wooden Discovered Her Flock

The first of four children of Irish immigrants, Ms. Wood spent much of her childhood traveling – her father was an Air Force radar technician – before the family settled in Culver City, California. In 1974, he attended the University of Southern California with a major in business administration.

There she found a mentor in Arthur Laffer, one of the patron saints of the economy on offer, after she had applied for admission to one of his graduate courses.

“It took a lot of chutzpah,” said 81-year-old Laffer.

He found Ms. Wood to be an impressive student who was unwilling to give up any subject until she fully understood it.

“I’ve never seen anyone in my life who is so thorough, so meticulous, and so research-oriented, which makes them pretty confident,” he said.

Ms. Wood’s work ethic and insatiable information consumption are recurring themes among former employees. She often woke up long before dawn to catch one of the first trains to Grand Central Terminal each day, and viewed the nearly two-hour journey from Connecticut as a kind of perpetual gathering on rails.

In the days before smartphones, tablets, and laptops, colleagues remembered dragging bags full of research reports into and out of the office every day.

Sig Segalas co-founded Jennison Associates, a New York money management business where Ms. Wood worked as an economist, then an analyst and fund manager, from the early 1980s to 1998. For many of those years his office was next to hers, and he remembers her as one of the last people to leave the office each day.