For years, John and Penelope Biggs have supported the classics department in Arts & Sciences. Now, they have extended their generosity to the economics department with the establishment of the John H. Biggs Distinguished Professorship in Economics in Arts & Sciences.
David K. Levine, Ph.D., became the first to hold this distinction in a ceremony April 12 in Holmes Lounge.
“John and Penelope Biggs have a long history with our institution, and their association has benefited us on many levels,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton in announcing the gift.
“Their service and support over the years have been deep and enduring, and we are truly grateful for their genuine affection for Washington University and their commitment to its mission.”
Levine’s research interests include his work with Michele Boldrin, Ph.D., the Joseph Gibson Hunt Distinguished Professor of Economics, examining intellectual property and endogenous growth in dynamic general equilibrium models. It includes also the endogenous formation of preferences, institutions and social norms; learning in games; and the application of game theory to experimental economics.
His research with colleague Timothy Kehoe was instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of self-fulfilling prophecy equilibria, and in helping to establish the general equilibrium underpinnings of modern research on asset market frictions.
Furthermore, his work with colleague Drew Fudenberg on game theory has established conditions for efficiency in repeated games, and the limitation on equilibrium theory imposed by the necessity of learning. Together, they authored the book, “Learning in Games.” His prolific research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
In addition, he has published more than 80 articles that have appeared in the most significant professional journals, including The American Economic Review, The Journal of Political Economy, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Econometrica, which he serves as co-editor. He also co-edits NAJ Economics.
Among Levine’s many professional roles are serving as president of the Society for Economic Dynamics, as a fellow of the Econometric Society, as a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, as a member of the Sloan Research Fellowship Program Committee, and as a member of the American Economic Association Honors and Awards Committee.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, Levine graduated with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to joining Washington University in 2006, most of his career was at UCLA, where he held the Armen Alchian Chair in Economic Theory and twice served as chair of the economics department.
He also has taught at many institutions worldwide, among them the University of Minnesota, Cambridge University, California Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University, the University of Texas, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Australia National University.
Penelope and John Biggs are both alumni of Arts & Sciences and both are dedicated to keeping the classics alive.
Eighteen years ago, they created a residency in the classics department, whereby an eminent scholar in Greek or Latin studies visits Washington University for a week to teach and promote an area of the classics. In 2002, they made a commitment to establish the John and Penelope Biggs Distinguished Professorship in the Classics.
Native St. Louisan John Biggs is an eminent economist with a life-long interest in advancing education. He graduated from Harvard in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in classics, but his mathematical abilities led him to his first job at General American Life Insurance Co., where he ascended through the ranks.
By the time he met then-chancellor of Washington University, William H. Danforth, in 1977, Biggs was chief financial officer for General American. Danforth offered him the vice chancellor position for finance and administration, and Biggs held it until 1985, when he became president and chief executive officer of Centerre Trust Inc.
During his tenure at Washington University, he earned a doctorate in economics and taught classes in the department.
In 1989, he became president and chief operating officer of TIAA-CREF, an investment company that offers a wide range of investment products and services primarily for those who work in education. Four years later, he was named chairman, president, and chief executive officer; he led the company until retiring in 2002.
Since his retirement, Biggs has remained active in corporate, community and professional associations. The former chairman of the influential National Bureau of Economic Research still serves as a director. In addition, he is a director for the Boeing Co. and J.P. Morgan.
Other distinctions include being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In addition to serving as a trustee of Washington University, Biggs has assisted his alma mater in many other ways, such as chairing the University’s New York Regional Cabinet.
Currently, he is an executive in residence at the Stern School at New York University.
After graduating summa cum laude from Radcliffe College, where she first met John, with a bachelor’s degree in classics, Penelope Biggs married John and moved to St. Louis.
She earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Washington University in 1968 and 1974, respectively, in comparative literature. She joined the faculty of Lindenwood College (now University) as an assistant professor of literature.
Later, she taught Latin at the high school now called Mary Institute Country Day School. Her writings on classical and post-classical literature have been published in scholarly journals.
Both John and Penelope Biggs are life members of the Danforth Circle.