During the 2001-02 academic year, the Yale community faced the deaths of three prominent professors — economics professor James Tobin, French professor Naomi Schor and sociology professor Roger Gould. Collectively, the three scholars made intellectual contributions not only to the Yale community, but also to the American government and to the academic world at large.
James Tobin: “The leading macroeconomist of our generation”
Tobin, a Nobel laureate and an adviser to President John F. Kennedy, died from a stroke on March 11 in New Haven at the age of 84.
Called “the leading macroeconomist of our generation” by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Paul Samuelson in The New York Times, Tobin gained national recognition for his Keynesian theories and for his unique ability to apply economic theory to real-world situations.
With work on a variety of topics, from portfolio diversification to government intervention, Tobin was an “enormously productive scholar,” said William Brainard, a former student of Tobin’s and the director of undergraduate studies for economics.
Tobin’s status as one of the world’s leading economists was solidified in 1981 when he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on financial markets.
Even while he was serving on national boards, advising politicians and producing groundbreaking research outside New Haven, Tobin made several important contributions to the University during his 50 years at Yale.
A mere five years after arriving at Yale in 1950, Tobin brought the Cowles Foundation, an economic research center, from the University of Chicago to Yale, and acted as its director until 1961. Alfred Cowles ’13, the center’s founder, decided to move the institution to Yale after Tobin rejected an offer from the University of Chicago to head the center there.
Since then, the Cowles Foundation has attracted and produced numerous Nobel laureates and has been the defining characteristic of Yale economics, said economics professor John Geanakoplos, who is currently the center’s director.
In the early 1980s, Tobin also played an influential role in devising an endowment spending rule that dictates the University only spend a fixed percentage of the endowment every year. That rule continues to govern Yale’s spending policies today.
Naomi Schor: A passionate French scholar
Schor, the acting director of graduate studies for the French Department, died suddenly on Dec. 2 from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 58. Her death came just two days after checking into Yale-New Haven Hospital.
A renowned scholar of 19th century French literature and feminist studies, Schor was married to French professor Howard Bloch. Schor arrived at Yale in 1998 after professorships at Brown, Duke and Harvard universities.
A prolific author, Schor published works exploring a variety of fields, including 19th-century authors, feminism, aesthetics and culture. At the time of her death, Schor was in the process of writing a major work on French universalism. She had also been teaching a French literature seminar about the works of Flaubert and Maupassant.
In recognition of her academic works, Schor received numerous distinctions and fellowships, including those endowed by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Roger Gould: “One of the top sociologists of his generation”
A year after being diagnosed with leukemia, sociology professor Roger Gould passed away April 29 in New York City at the age of 39.
Gould, who left the University of Chicago for Yale in the fall of 2000, was on leave at Columbia University as a Russell Sage Foundation visiting scholar at the time of his death.
Yale sociology chairman Ivan Szelenyi said Gould, a specialist in historical and analytical sociology, was “one of the very top sociologists of his generation.” Although Gould was only at Yale for a year before his death, he was a vital component of the Sociology Department’s massive rebuilding efforts, Szelenyi said. In his first year at Yale, Gould served as the department’s director of undergraduate studies.
Following a summer 2001 diagnosis, Gould’s cancer treatment was initially successful, leading to an almost full recovery by December. However, the cancer re-emerged a month later and Gould’s health continued to deteriorate until his death.
Gould was remarkably unpretentious and low-key for a scholar who had achieved so much at such a young age, Szelenyi said. In addition to earning tenure at the University of Chicago at an early age, Gould was the editor of the prestigious American Journal of Sociology before coming to Yale.
The following senior professors have departed Yale this year or will depart Yale at the end of the 2001-02 academic year:
Mahzarin Banaji, Psychology
Peter Belhumeur, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Cathy Cohen, Political Science and African American Studies
Nancy Cott, American Studies
Jennifer Doudna, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Junhyong Kim, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
After years of serving the Yale community, the following nine professors will retire at the end of the 2001-02 academic year:
Walter Cahn, History of Art
Boa The Chu, Mechanical Engineering
William Hallo, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
John Hollander, English
James Dittes, Religious Studies
Merton Peck, Economics
Jeffrey Sammons, German
Alan Trachtenberg, English and American Studies
Werner Wolf, Engineering, Applied Sciences and Physics