• Nobel-winning economist Michael Kremer to join department faculty as University Professor

     

    Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard University

    Photo by Jon Chase/Harvard University

    Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Kremer has been appointed University Professor at the University of Chicago and will join our department faculty.

    A pioneer in development economics who has shaped the discipline through the use of field experiments to inform economic models, policy and program development, Kremer shared the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2019. He has been most recently at Harvard University, where he serves as the Gates Professor of Developing Societies in the Department of Economics.

    Kremer’s appointment at UChicago will be effective on Sept. 1. He also will hold a secondary appointment at the Harris School of Public Policy.

    “Michael is a scholar of extraordinary vision and accomplishment. His research has had an enormous influence on his field, and has been impactful in informing public policy in developing countries,” said Ka Yee C. Lee, provost and the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry. “We are delighted to welcome Michael to the University of Chicago. The range of his research will undoubtedly lead to collaborations across divisions and schools.”

    University Professors are among those recruited at a senior level from outside the University, and are selected for internationally recognized eminence in their fields as well as for their potential for high impact across the University. Kremer will become the 23rd person to hold a University Professorship, and the 10th active faculty member holding that title.

    “The University of Chicago’s commitment to expanding research on development economics is an exceptional opportunity,” Kremer said. “The work ahead will develop new knowledge on ways to address global poverty and ultimately to do good for the world.

    Kremer was among the first economists to evaluate interventions in developing countries through randomized control trials. In 1998, he evaluated a project on deworming in Kenya. By comparing schools that had already been phased into treatment for intestinal worms with those that had not yet been phased into the program, he and his collaborators found that the program reduced student absenteeism by a quarter—and even reduced transmission of the disease to neighboring schools. Subsequent work also found that deworming had long-run impacts, leading to higher living standards 20 years later.

    “Michael’s research and its resulting policy impacts in economic development, health, education and technological innovation has been transformative at a global scale,” said Amanda Woodward, dean of the Division of the Social Sciences and the William S. Gray Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology. “We look forward to the next revolutionary phases of Michael’s work. He will be a foundational force for the future of Griffin Economics as well as for the broad community of economists at the University of Chicago.”

    Through the nonprofit organization Evidence Action and its private sector and government partners, Kremer’s work has now helped provide free deworming treatments to 280 million children. The World Health Organization recommends large-scale deworming as the most cost-effective way to improve children’s health and nutrition.

    “All of Michael’s work is grounded in theory and built around a coherent set of ideas interrogating what we can learn from economics,” said Rob Shimer, chair of the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics and the Alvin H. Baum Professor in Economics. “His extraordinary contributions to the field of economics and to improving human welfare are testament to the power of his methodological innovations.”

    In addition to that research, Kremer helped develop the advance market commitment, proposing the idea of a contract that would guarantee that if firms developed vaccines for diseases affecting the developing world meeting certain technological specifications, donors would help cover the cost of purchasing the product. Such commitments have stimulated private investment in vaccine research and the distribution of vaccines for diseases in the developing world. A $1.5 billion commitment by a consortium of donors led to the development and distribution of vaccines covering the strains of pneumococcal diseases common in the developing world, saving an estimated 700,000 lives.

    “Michael’s landmark work has not only advanced the field but has had enormous real-world impact,” said Katherine Baicker, dean and the Emmett Dedmon Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. “His work has resulted in billions of dollars being devoted towards malaria and pneumococcal vaccines focused on the strains prevalent in developing countries. Few economists have saved so many lives around the world.”

    While changes in broad-scale government programs have long provided economists with natural experiments to inform their models, Kremer and his colleagues developed an iterative strategy that engages—and in some instances, founds—NGOs to deliver social programs that implement and test economic ideas. This approach can reveal the causal forces at play in economic systems, shedding light where observational data cannot. It also offers a proving ground for developing and perfecting effective policies and programs.

    At UChicago, Kremer will lead a new Development Innovation Lab, an initiative that will sit within the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics.

    “I am excited to join the University of Chicago, with its storied tradition of pioneering economics research,” Kremer said. “The new lab will use the tools of economics to develop innovations of practical use for developing countries. By bringing together experts in different fields and working closely with nonprofit organizations, firms and governments in the developing world, we can simultaneously advance knowledge and generate solutions to development challenges which can reach hundreds of millions of people.”

    “Michael’s work simultaneously pushes out the frontier of understanding and has had enormous and lasting impacts on people’s well-being,” said Michael Greenstone, director of the Becker Friedman Institute and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics. “He is the perfect person to lead the Development Innovation Lab at BFI, and I know he will catalyze the terrific development economics here into even greater heights, with the ultimate beneficiaries being the field of economics and the world.”

    Kremer is the author of more than 120 academic articles and book chapters. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a 1997 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He has won awards for his work on health economics, agricultural economics and on Latin America.

    Kremer earned his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1992. He was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Chicago in Spring Quarter 1993. Prior to his appointment at Harvard, he was a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1993 to 1999.

    For more information, please see https://news.uchicago.edu/story/nobel-winning-economist-michael-kremer-join-uchicago-faculty-university-professor.

     

  • Max Solomon Lewis, rising third-year student in the College, 2001-2021

     

    University of Chicago community mourns loss of campus leader, selfless friend

    Max Solomon Lewis, a rising third-year student in the College, is remembered by members of the University of Chicago community for his constant enthusiasm and the care he extended to others. 

    A double major in economics and computer science from Denver, Lewis died on July 4, three days after being hit by a stray bullet while riding an off-campus Chicago Transit Authority train. He was 20 years old.

     

    Man in suit smiling“The University is devastated by Max’s loss. During this sorrowful time, our deepest sympathies are with Max’s family, friends and all who knew him,” wrote Provost Ka Yee C. Lee and Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen in a message to the University community. “Max was a talented student and beloved campus leader and friend who will be greatly missed.”

    Lewis was president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and member of Promontory Investment Research (PIR), a student-run publication. Through his many UChicago activities, Lewis made a lasting impact on many of his classmates, who remembered him as unconditionally supportive. 

    Joyce Liu, a rising third-year student, recalled regular phone calls she had with Lewis, which she called “incredibly grounding,” especially in the midst of the pandemic. The last time they spoke, they began celebrating an offer Lewis had received for a summer 2022 internship—a topic he quickly interrupted to discuss new ideas as members of PIR.

    “He was always thinking about others, always thinking about ways to improve the communities and people that he cared deeply about,” Liu said. “That was something that was so incredibly special about Max.”

    Victoria Gin, a rising fourth-year student, met Lewis through their involvement in PIR. Now the president of the organization, she recalled Lewis’ warmth and “can-do” attitude. “Even in a virtual environment, Max would find a way to make everyone laugh,” she said. “It was incredible.”

    Gin once invited Lewis to a dinner with friends to celebrate the end of the quarter. Lewis said he already had both lunch and dinner plans—but he joined them for a second dinner regardless. “He found a way to make sure he could participate and be present at every single event possible,” Gin said. “I have no idea how he was able to do it all, but he made sure to show up.”

    “He was always thinking about others, always thinking about ways to improve the communities and people that he cared deeply about.”

    —Joyce Liu, rising third-year student

    Zach Cogan, who met Lewis on their first day as UChicago students in fall 2019, remembered Lewis for his kindness and selflessness. “He would do things for other people and never ask for credit,” said Cogan, a rising third-year student and fellow member of Alpha Epsilon Pi. “He just wanted to help as many people as he could and was the biggest team player.”

    Asst. Prof. Rad Niazadeh of the Booth School of Business described Lewis as “a hidden gem and a rising star.” He recalled how Lewis reached out to register for Niazadeh’s course on managerial decision modeling, which had reached enrollment capacity. To convince Niazadeh, Lewis explained that he wanted to train across different departments to solve problems at the intersection of economics, computer science and operations.

    “I indeed allowed him to take my course to follow this aspiration,” Niazadeh said. “He later returned this favor by his exemplary grit and passion during the course.”

    The University will provide information on plans to honor Max’s memory in the near future. 

    “Max’s passing brings profound grief to the College community,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “As a student scholar and friend, Max was admired by many for the character and ambition that exemplifies the extraordinary students of UChicago. We are deeply saddened to lose this appreciated member of our community.”

    Lewis is survived by his parents, Mark and Rebecca; and his younger brother, Eli.

    —This story was first published on the University of Chicago College website.

           
  • Hugo Sonnenschein, 11th president of the University of Chicago, 1940-2021

    Man (Hugo Sonnenschein) smiling in front of chalk board

    University administrator and economist remembered for overseeing change during tenure

    Hugo Sonnenschein, a renowned economist and longtime university administrator who led the University of Chicago through a transformational period as its 11th president, died July 15. He was 80 years old.

    A member of the University community for nearly three decades, Sonnenschein most recently served as the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. He was a beloved mentor and scholar who continued to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, having made original contributions on questions of multimarket demand and supply functions in economics. His research helped establish the modern theory of aggregate demand.

    Man smiling in front of UChicago office windowAs UChicago president from 1993 to 2000, Sonnenschein strengthened the recruitment of outstanding students and faculty, developed a strategic plan to expand the undergraduate College, and devoted greater resources to the construction of new facilities and to improving the quality of campus life.

    “Hugo’s tireless work led to substantial improvements during his time as president, and set the stage for many of the advances the University has made in the decades since,” wrote President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the University community. “He was a leader of foresight whose achievements will be remembered with deep respect.”

    Sonnenschein became UChicago president on July 1, 1993, after having served as provost of Princeton University. In his inaugural address on campus that fall, Sonnenschein warned of “the intellectual, economic and social thickets” that the University would face in the future. “Let us come together bravely, willing to question and challenge all that we do,” he said.

    Sonnenschein raised expectations for fundraising from the University’s alumni and friends; during his tenure, the University completed a $676 million capital campaign—the most in its history at the time. Sonnenschein also instituted the first campus master-planning process in 30 years, which led to the eventual construction of the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, a new campus for the Graduate School of Business (now Chicago Booth) and two new residence halls for undergraduate students.

    “Hugo’s tireless work led to substantial improvements during his time as president, and set the stage for many of the advances the University has made in the decades since.”

    —President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the University community

    While maintaining the strength of the University’s renowned graduate programs, Sonnenschein initiated a program to improve the College’s appeal to undergraduate students. At the same time, curricular developments, including the faculty revision of the renowned Core curriculum, led to greater student opportunities for studying abroad and learning foreign languages.

    In spring 1996, Sonnenschein announced a plan to enlarge the size of the undergraduate College by 1,000 students over the course of a decade, while reducing the number of required courses in the Core—proposals that led to spirited debate among UChicago faculty members, students and alumni. John W. Boyer, who has served as dean of the College for 29 years, including Sonnenschein’s tenure as president, said Sonnenschein’s vision has stood the test of time.

    “Hugo Sonnenschein was a remarkably strategic leader who made an enormous contribution to the welfare and future success of the University,” said Boyer. “He was a man of decisiveness and courage who helped set in motion patterns of deep structural renewal and transformation for the University that have endured into our times. His passing is an extraordinary loss for the spirit of the University. His foresight and leadership through a time of great challenge and controversy made possible many dynamic features of the University that we enjoy today.”

      Two men sitting and speaking into microphones (Hugo Sonnenschein and John W. Boyer)  

    In a 2017 interview with the University of Rochester, his alma mater, Sonnenschein reflected upon the change he tried to initiate during his UChicago tenure.

    “A primary purpose of academic leadership is to guide a university to appreciate its strengths, to examine what it can do better, and to help it to serve society,” Sonnenschein told the Rochester Review. “We are expected to lead the cheers, but we must also hold up a mirror. Great universities need to be challenged.”

    When Sonnenschein announced his plans to expand the College in 1996, more than 3,600 students were enrolled in the College. That number has nearly doubled; in fall 2020, UChicago welcomed around 7,000 undergraduates. The University has continued to expand access and financial aid to students of all backgrounds, while remaining one of the nation’s most highly selective institutions.

    “Like other transformative presidents, Sonnenschein thought in imaginative yet clear-eyed ways about the connections between undergraduate education in the College and the strength of research and scholarship in the Divisions and the Professional Schools,” Boyer said. “Several decades after his famous letter of April 1996 urging an increase in the size of the College and more investments in the experience of undergraduates, his advocacy of the idea of a College that would become a compelling destination for the most talented of students still looms large in the history of the University.”

    “Hugo Sonnenschein was a remarkably strategic leader who made an enormous contribution to the welfare and future success of the University.’’

    —John W. Boyer, dean of the College

    Renowned scholar and beloved mentor

    After he retired as president in 2000, Sonnenschein returned to the UChicago economics faculty. He remained active in research and taught an undergraduate course in game theory and a graduate course in microeconomic theory.

    As an economic theorist, Sonnenschein was a beloved mentor and scholar who made significant contributions to the field. His first paper in Econometrica in 1965 grappled with important questions on the consistency of consumer choices. Sonnenschein showed that a consumer’s overall consistency could be boiled down to their consistency over items between which they are indifferent. His approach to consumer choice theory has since become the standard in the field.

    Sonnenschein’s early work on consumer choice led to questions concerning market interactions between many consumers. The now-famous Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu theorem states that how the economy as a whole reacts to price changes—in contrast to how individuals react—is essentially impossible to predict without placing unrealistic assumptions on the distribution of income and preferences across the economy itself. The effects ripple through economic theory to this day.

    In 2009, the BBVA Foundation honored Sonnenschein with the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance and Management, shared with economist Andreu Mas-Colell. The award jury cited Sonnenschein and Mas-Colell for “extending the reach and applicability of general equilibrium theory and for establishing the modern theory of aggregate demand. Their work revealed the robustness of general equilibrium analysis and its wide applicability even when economic agents are not fully rational.”

    “It’s clear that he’s both been an exemplary scholar and an exemplary teacher,” said Stanford University economist and Nobel laureate Alvin Roth in 2015, during a UChicago conference honoring Sonnenschein.

    Some of Sonnenschein’s most recent research focused on the difficult problem of designing efficient bargaining mechanisms in dynamic settings that involve incomplete information about preferences. 

    He cared deeply about progress in economic theory, and he was always devoted to helping younger scholars advance and contribute to the field. He collaborated with many students, and was a generous adviser across several decades. In the seven years when he served as editor of Econometrica, his active encouragement and guidance of new research helped to make those years a transformative period for economics.

      Three people smiling and embracing  

     

    “Hugo was always an inspiring presence in the department. His wisdom and experience in faculty meetings and around the seminar and lunch tables improved our collective decision-making,” said Prof. Robert Shimer, chair of the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. “His grace and equanimity made work more pleasant and productive. He was always kind, supportive, and optimistic. His advice was invaluable to me as a researcher and more recently as department chair.”

    Prof. Philip J. Reny, who studied under Sonnenschein at Princeton University before becoming a colleague on the UChicago faculty, described his mentor as “a giant” in the fields of general equilibrium and economic theory. As a graduate student at Princeton, Reny remembered a student skit night in which a student portrayed Sonnenschein as Fred Rogers of the PBS show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”—a testament to a teaching style that was “elegant, gentle and encouraging.”

    “Aside from his brilliance, which was immense, his great asset was his ability to the see value in his students’ ideas which he nurtured better than anyone I know,” said Reny, now the Hugo F. Sonnenschein Distinguished Service Professor in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. “He would never miss an opportunity to tell us that what we were doing was important work, which had a tremendous impact on us. He was one of the great scholars and mentors of his generation and will deeply missed by all whom he touched.”

    Stanford University’s Matthew O. Jackson, another former student, said Sonnenschein was a “legendary” mentor who supported groundbreaking research in economic theory for many decades. “It is not just that Hugo had an uncanny ability to ask the right questions and excelled at teaching others to do the same, but also that his advice and friendship were lifelong gifts,” Jackson said. “He loved people—getting to know them and being part of their lives. Despite the abundance of people for whom Hugo had a deep and sustained influence, he always treated you as family.”

    “Aside from his brilliance, which was immense, his great asset was his ability to the see value in his students’ ideas which he nurtured better than anyone I know.”

    —Prof. Philip J. Reny

    Born Nov. 14, 1940, Sonnenschein grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of Rochester, where his interest in mathematics led him to study economist Kenneth Arrow’s research on social choice. He received an bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of Rochester in 1961, and the following year, married Elizabeth Gunn, whom he had met during his first year at Rochester.

    Sonnenschein received a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University in 1964. Later that year, was named an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, where he served on the faculty until 1970. He then served as professor at the University of Massachusetts from 1970 to 1973; professor at Northwestern University from 1973 to 1976; professor at Princeton University from 1976 to 1988; a faculty member and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania from 1988 to 1991; and provost of Princeton University from 1991 to 1993.

    Sonnenschein was an honorary trustee of the University of Chicago and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Philosophical Society and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association. He was also a fellow in the Econometric Society (1972) and president of the Econometric Society (1988 to 1989, 1991).

    He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Gunn Sonnenschein, a retired cancer epidemiologist who served on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago and New York University; their three daughters, Leah, Amy and Rachel; and five grandchildren.

    To donate to the Elizabeth and Hugo Sonnenschein Scholarship Fund at the University of Chicago, click here.

    Photos by: J.T. Miller, courtesy of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center; Matthew Gilson, courtesy of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center; Photo courtesy of the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center; Photo by Robert Kozloff

    This story was originally published as a UChicago News article. The original article can be found at news.uchicago.edu

     

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