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University of Minnesota confers honorary degree on Thomas Sargent

Nobel Prize-winning economist was longtime U of M faculty member

Monday, February 4, 2013

The University of Minnesota conferred an honorary degree on Nobel Prize-winning economist and longtime faculty member Thomas Sargent on Monday, February 4.

The Doctor of Science is the highest award conferred by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, recognizing individuals who have achieved acknowledged eminence in their field.

"Pound for pound, in terms of its accomplishments in undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching and research, I regard the University of Minnesota as the best economics department in the world," said Sargent. "Graduates of the U of M form an elite group comprising many of the world's most distinguished economists. As an economist, I am especially honored and pleased to be able to say that I too have a degree from the University of Minnesota. I will treasure it."

Sargent, currently a professor at New York University, presented a lecture on the topic of monetary unions before an honorary degree ceremony followed by a dessert reception.

Together with Christopher Sims, another former U of M economics professor, Sargent received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The duo’s "empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy," cited by the Nobel committee, and development of the rational expectations model was largely done while they were faculty members in the U’s Department of Economics. Rational expectations found that since consumers and investors adjust their behaviors whenever the government shifts policies, these policies rarely have their intended effect.

"Professor Sargent is one of the world’s most influential economists and it is an honor to bestow on him the University’s highest honor," said U of M President Eric Kaler, who presented the degree to Sargent. "His work, started here at the University of Minnesota and spanning more than 40 years, has changed modern economic thinking."

"While he was a faculty member here, Tom turned our department of economics into one of the most renowned in the world," said College of Liberal Arts Dean James Parente. "His work with U of M students and colleagues continues today through his role as a board member of the University’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute (HHEI) - an institute that was named in part after the late Leo Hurwicz, who was also a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2007."

"Tom Sargent is a giant in the field of economics," said colleague and former advisee Lawrence J. Christiano, professor at Northwestern University. "In terms of macroeconomics, the Department of Economics at Minnesota is one of the really top departments anywhere...This is due in no small measure to the enormous contributions that Sargent made to macroeconomics during the years that he was on the faculty at Minnesota."

"There are great scholars and there are great teachers. But when great scholars are also great teachers it is the gift that keeps on giving," said Thomas F. Cooley, a colleague and economics professor at NYU. "Tom has a passion about not just pushing back the frontiers of economics himself but making sure that they will keep getting pushed back for many generations to come."

More information on Sargent is available here.

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