by Larry Jones
By far the most notable event occurred when Leonid Hurwicz, who had been on the faculty since 1951, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on mechanism design in October 2007. He became the first sitting University of Minnesota faculty member ever to be honored in this way. He shared the prize with two long-term friends of the department, Eric Maskin (Princeton) and Roger Myerson (University of Chicago). His pathbreaking work has changed the way economists think about the problem of designing institutions in order to achieve socially desirable goals.
In addition to his research contributions, Leo played a preeminent role in shaping the department over the years. His impact cannot be overestimated. It was in large measure through Leo’s guidance that the department became the world-class institution that it is today. It was under his hand that the great groups in theory, macroeconomics, and econometrics were developed.
As you can imagine, the award was accompanied by many celebrations — luncheons, dinners, and receptions. It was heartening to see how many friends of both Leo and the department came together for these events. They shared their stories of times with Leo with an affection that was truly touching. It was also accompanied by the announcement of a graduate student fellowship named in Leo’s honor, and the outpouring of support that came along with this was moving. Grief cast a shadow over our celebrations when Leo passed away in June, but his legacy endures in the department and in the field of economics.
The second big event of the year was the arrival of a new generation of faculty members — five are the senior level (Kim Sau Chung, Ichiro Obara, Amil Petrin, Chris Phelan, and José Víctor Ríos-Rull) and five at the junior level (Fatih Guvenen, Kyoo il Kim, Minjung Park, David Rahman, and Itai Sher). This influx of new blood has already added to the buzz in the department as they bring their energy and excitement about economics along with their individual approaches to research and teaching. We all look forward to their help in determining the future course of the department.
We also moved. An alumnus of the department, Herb Hanson, along with his wife, Bar Hanson, made a generous gift to the University that funded construction of a new building on the West Bank. This is an extension of the Carlson School of Management, connected by one of the skyways that are so well known around Minneapolis. We moved into our new digs — the top two floors of a slick brick and glass building — in May. The move went off without a hitch thanks to the remarkable efforts of the staff. They kicked us out of our offices on a Wednesday and told us not to come back until the following Tuesday. When we did, everything was in place and ready for work to start again!
As in past years, our students keep making us look good. This last year, two notable examples were Michele Tertilt (Ph.D. ’03), an assistant professor at Stanford, who won a prestigious NSF Career Grant, and Mikhail Golosov (Ph.D. ’04), an assistant professor at MIT, who also won an NSF Career Grant and, in addition, was one of eight economists to win a Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our outgoing chair, Narayana Kocherlakota, for all of the hard work he did during his term. We all appreciate his tireless efforts over the past years.
Finally, thanks to all of you. The tradition of Minnesota economics can continue only because of your support. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me at 612-625-3810.