Economics Alumni News

Class Year: ‘69

Homecoming for Prime Minister Monti

Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti toured the Economics Department and the Cowles Foundation buildings on Wednesday morning. Monti took the opportunity to visit his old department while in town attending the Global Colloquium of University Presidents hosted by Yale. He said this was his first time back to the department since the late 1960s.

Accompanied by his wife Elsa and Economics Professor Giovanni Maggi, Monti reminisced with department chair, Dirk Bergemann, who guided the group through the 28 and 30 Hillhouse buildings.  Monti visited a seminar room where he attended classes and passed through the student lounge which did not exist when he attended Yale. While in the Cowles Faculty Lounge, he took time to pay homage to his professor and mentor, the late James Tobin.

Giovanni Maggi, who studied under Monti at Bocconi University in the 1980s, was delighted to join the tour and speak with his former professor. “Talking with Professor Monti after a long time brought back wonderful memories of my time as a student at Bocconi University,” said Maggi. “It was a great trip down memory lane, and it reminded me what a fantastic teacher he was.” During Maggi’s time at Bocconi University, Monti directed the Institute of Economics before becoming the university’s rector in 1989 and later president in 1994.

Giovanni Maggi, Elsa Monti, Mario Monti, and Dirk Bergemann

Dirk Bergemann and Mario Monti

Mario Monti and Dirk Bergemann


Post date: 04/14/16

Class Year: ‘82

William English to Teach in the Fall

This upcoming academic year, students will have the opportunity to take a class with William B. English, Senior Special Advisor for Monetary Policy at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Mr. English will be a visiting faculty member in the Department of Economics and will teach two classes closely related to his work at the Federal Reserve: Monetary Economics in the fall and Central Banking in the spring.

The idea is to teach the students the background they need to grapple with some of the difficult, but very interesting, policy questions that have come out of the financial crisis and the subsequent recession,” English said.

No stranger to the university, Mr. English received his B.A. in Economics and Mathematics from Yale in 1982, and had Economics Professor and Nobel Laureate James Tobin as his thesis advisor.  During his senior year, Mr. English also took Mathematical Economics taught by John Geanakoplos (the first class Geanakoplos taught after graduating from Harvard and returning to Yale as an assistant professor). 

When asked about advice for undergraduates pursuing a degree in Economics, Mr. English said, “Take classes on a broad range of topics in economics.  It’s a big field, and you can’t know what you find most interesting until you have tried it.  Along the same lines, write an honors thesis, so that you get some exposure to research in Economics and see if you like it.”

Mr. English has served at the Board of Governor of the Federal Reserve System for over 20 years, and has held a range of positions, including, Director of the Division of Monetary Affairs and Secretary to the Federal Open Market Committee from 2010 to 2015.  In that position, Mr. English oversaw the development of monetary policy, working extensively on issues related to asset purchases, policy normalization, and policy communication. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. Mr. English received a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. 

Mr. English visited Yale this last February to present on the Federal Reserve’s unconventional monetary policies.


Post date: 06/01/16

Class Year: ‘86

Alumni Behind Tobin Scholars Award

Former Professor and Nobel Laureate James Tobin is still a much admired figure in the world of economics, even after his passing in 2002. Motivated by the Great Depression, much of Tobin’s research focused on macroeconomics, mainly monetary and fiscal policy. Not only was he respected for his field work, but he was also revered for his mentorship, teaching and advising.

To honor Prof. Tobin and his scholarship, alumni Stephen Freidheim and David Swensen (also Yale’s CIO) created the Tobin Scholars Prize in 2012, which is annually awarded up to four seniors majoring in Economics or Economics and Math for outstanding performance in core theory courses.  To better understand Professor Tobin’s impact the two men and what he meant to them, we posed a few questions to the alumni.

Why did you decide to create the prize?
 

Stephen Freidheim: Professor Tobin had a profound impact on me. Firstly, he was a central figure in macroeconomics, who opened my mind (and those of hundreds of his students) to a broad spectrum of economic theory from formalized risk theories to specific econometric models, from general macro theory to specific behavioral theories and economic policies. He was a great teacher and a great listener. It was clear that Jim Tobin loved teaching and loved Yale. However, what had the deepest impact on me, was my discovery that his devotion to the study of economics was driven by his awareness of the human and economic waste of the Great Depression, and his desire that his life’s work in this field could make a major difference for the welfare of people. He devoted his energy and vast intellect to the betterment of people and society. He was both brilliant and compassionate.

David Swensen: Steve Friedheim approached me a number of years ago to talk about ways that we might support the Economics Department and honor Jim Tobin. We found that, unlike many other departments at Yale, Economics had few, if any, ways to recognize undergraduates. The solution was simple: create Tobin Scholars to honor academic excellence.
 

Did you have a connection to Prof. Tobin that led to your creating the prize named in his honor?
 

SF: Yes, I was his student and he was my senior thesis advisor, so we worked closely while I was a student at Yale in the 80’s. After I graduated we remained in contact. Over the years, he recommended a handful of his students to come work with me in the investment world. Many of these individuals have gone forward and built careers as investors and businesses that are doing very well today. I, along with these professionals, and the many, many others who were impacted by Jim over the years– are proud members of Tobin’s Army.

DS: Jim Tobin had a profound impact on my life. As a teacher, he emphasized the importance of employing first principles when addressing problems. As my advisor, he demanded clear, crisp prose, knowing that sloppy writing often stood side by side with sloppy thinking. As a mentor, he told me to do something with my life that matters and he helped (along with Bill Brainard) to open the door for my return to Yale to manage the Endowment. I’m thrilled that Jim’s memory will be sustained, in part, by the Tobin Scholars.
 

What has been the students’ reaction to winning the prize?

 

SF: It’s clearly been positive at least on two levels. First, the prize (awarded to the top students in the economics department by its faculty) has helped revive Tobin’s legacy and his theories both among the students and the faculty. There’s renewed buzz on campus about the great man behind the prestigious prize, which has been so enjoyable for me to witness and in which to take part. Second, the students value the award as evidenced by the resumes that I receive when recruiting for the world’s top undergraduate talent every year. Winners of the Tobin Scholar prize will proudly (and prominently) list the award on their resumes and cover letters. The award is always a topic for conversation during interviews as well.
 

What advice do you have for undergraduates pursuing a degree in economics?

 

SF: The great part of the quintessential liberal arts education at Yale was that it taught me how to think. During my four years at Yale I explored arguments and theories (across a myriad subjects). We studied them, took them apart, and learned how thought and theory built upon one other. It opened my mind to appreciate and respect a wide spectrum of thought and methodologies. It taught me how to approach theories critically and how to address questions and problems.

A soft science major like Economics has the advantage of combining the rigor of learning complex theories and formulas within the openness of a real world in which these very theories and formulas get put to the test. Studying great economic theories that eventually failed in the real world, helps develop a critical mind. Tinkering with the details and then thinking broadly, and back again to sweating the detail was great fun. Such mental dexterity that an Economics major develops in a young mind is particularly useful in professional life. Fresh out of Yale on Wall Street the economic, behavioral, and market theories that underpin our economic world, all seemed far less practical than the hard accounting and finance majors that many of my peers had earned. However, one quickly learns the specific technical rules on the job. The advantages of the liberal arts economics major, starts bearing fruit quickly and enduringly– the ability to adroitly manipulate basic and complex relationships within and among businesses and markets with a critical mind is useful throughout so many professions in investing, finance, business (both old and new economy) and consulting (and likely many other endeavors).

Today (just as it was in the 80’s), Economics is a major where you justly get out what you put in. At Yale the Economics major has tremendous breadth of subject matter and levels of difficulty. There are heavily quantitative courses that can challenge the brightest mathematical minds, theoretical and conceptual courses for the finest abstract thinkers, rigorous courses, as well as easier courses with lower workloads. I’d encourage all Economics majors to put aside any fear of workload or difficulty, to challenge yourselves, to choose courses that excite and test your young minds, and you’ll reap the benefits throughout your careers.

Finally, if you have the opportunity to study under a teacher like Jim Tobin or David Swensen– by all means grab it! Yale is blessed to have great professors, scholars and TA’s. From them you can learn far more than just great theories (and, yes, you will be exposed to amazing ways of thinking)– you will gain exposure to deeply principled men and women that may inspire you throughout your careers. Such life lessons can be invaluable deep into your career, as I have found. From Jim’s example, his students were exposed to many of life’s principles– many of which guide my business today– intellectual honesty in all aspects of ones work, clarity and precision in the expression of all ideas, respect for all people, unabashed competitiveness, and personal modesty. Incredible that a man of Jim Tobin’s stature and accomplishments gave his students the lesson of modesty.


 

Any additional comments?

 

SF: Yes, I created the prize with David Swensen. David in many ways embodies all the best virtues that I so admire in Jim Tobin. David, like Jim, has advanced economic and portfolio theories that are brilliant and impactful. In addition, like Jim, David’s luminous scholarship, beautiful mind and tireless energies are devoted to the betterment of Yale and society more broadly. David has accomplished this firstly by developing and implementing portfolio theories that have radically reshaped Yale’s endowment, which has allowed for such things as need-blind admissions (which didn’t exist when I was a student at Yale). David’s greatest gift to society to date, however, may be that he continues to develop his own army dedicated to helping other institutions of higher learning and charitable organizations by implementing these portfolio investment theories. In doing so, David’s impact on the welfare of society and so many individuals is profound, enduring, and growing. So, it is wholly appropriate that David Swensen is the one to hand out the Tobin Scholar prizes every year to the winning students. 


For more on Professor Tobin’s life, work, and accomplishments, visit the Tobin Project website.

Stephen Freidheim is the CIO, Founder and Managing Partner of Cyrus Capital Partners.  He co-founded the predecessor company in August 1999.  He was Managing Director and Partner at Bankers Trust Company and head of its Capital Management Group from 1993 to 1999, where he was responsible for proprietary trading and client investments in high yield and distressed.  In addition, he was Chief Investment Officer of Fixed Income.  He was the Director of Research and Trading and a member of Board of Directors for Nomura Corporate Research & Asset Management from 1990-93.  Mr. Freidheim started his career at Kidder, Peabody in 1986, where he became its youngest-ever Vice President and was Director of High Yield Research at Kidder, Peabody Asset Management until 1990.  He serves on several boards and committees including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Peterson Institute, the Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Through his foundation he supports child education. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics in 1986.     

David Swensen is Yale’s CIO, overseeing $22 billion in Endowment assets and several hundreds of millions of dollars of other investment funds. Under his stewardship during the past 28 years the Yale Endowment generated returns of 13.8 percent per annum, a record unequalled among institutional investors. Mr. Swensen leads a staff of 30, located near the University’s campus in downtown New Haven. Prior to joining Yale in 1985, Mr. Swensen spent six years on Wall Street–three years at Lehman Brothers and three years at Salomon Brothers–where his work focused on developing new financial technologies. At Salomon Brothers, he structured the first swap, a currency transaction involving IBM and the World Bank. Mr. Swensen authored Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment and Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment, both published by The Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. His books have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

 


Post date: 11/30/16

Class Year: ‘90

Patel Appointed New Governor of the RBI

Yale alumnus Urjit R. Patel Ph.D. ’90 was appointed the 24th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 20. Serving as Deputy Governor since January 2013, Patel will begin his three-year term on September 4th. His Yale graduate advisor, Professor Emeritus of Economics,T.N. Srinivasan, is quoted in media outlets as saying, “Urjit Patel is the right man for RBI Governor’s job.” 

Before attending Yale, Patel received an M. Phil. from Oxford and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the London School of Economics. He has an extensive resume having worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs in New Delhi, The Boston Consulting Group, and The Brookings Institute.

Patel has also served on several committees, such as Task Force on Direct Taxes, Finance Ministry, Advisory Committee (on Research Projects and Market Studies), Competition Commission of India, secretariat for the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Infrastructure, Group of Ministers on Telecom Matters, Committee on Civil Aviation Reforms, and Ministry of Power’s Expert Group on State Electricity Boards.

Read more about Patel and his appointment in these sources:


Post date: 08/24/16

Class Year: ‘03

Former Grad Student David "Dukes" Love Appointed Provost

Yale alum David Love Ph.D. ‘03, more affectionately known as Dukes, has been appointed the next provost of Williams College.  His term begins September 1.  Love joined the Williams Economics Department in 2003 after earning both an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics form Yale.  His research focuses on household savings, portfolio allocation, macroeconomics, public finance, and private pensions. Love has published articles in the Economic Journal, Journal of Monetary Economics, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Financial Economics, and the Journal of Public Economics.  He has served on various committees during his tenure at Williams, and is currently an editor at the Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.

Read more about David on the on the Williams College Letters from President page.


Post date: 04/22/16

Class Year: '16

Merritt '16 Wins Rhodes

Peter Merritt ’16 will join three other Yalies studying at Oxford University next year as winners of Rhodes Scholarships. 

The alumnus graduated with a double major in political science and economics. His senior thesis analyzed the conflicts between religious liberty and LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections in the United States and around the world. In college, Merritt was a member of the Law & Religion Group at Yale Law School, wrote for the Journal of Medicine and Law, and ran a community service organization that brought leftover dining hall food to New Haven halfway houses. An avid athlete, Merritt also competed for the Yale Varsity Track & Field team, finished two marathons, and spent one summer cycling across the United States. He is interested in studying the global protection of human rights and will pursue an M.Phil. in politics at Oxford.

Merritt will represent Bermuda at Oxford. Yale’s three U.S. Rhodes recipients were announced on Nov. 20.

Considered one of the most prestigious awards for international study, the Rhodes Scholarship was created in 1902 at the bequest of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. The award provides all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford to those students who best exemplify “academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness and leadership potential.”


Post date: 12/01/16