Economist Werner Ploberger appointed inaugural Thomas H. Eliot Distinguished Professor

First professorship named after Chancellor Eliot

Werner Ploberger, Ph.D., was installed as the first Thomas H. Eliot Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences on October 30 in Holmes Lounge.

“It is a privilege to announce the creation of the Thomas H. Eliot Distinguished Professorship,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “Eliot was an important figure in Washington University’s history. As its twelfth chancellor, he led the institution through one of its most challenging periods and contributed to its rise to national prominence.”

Ploberger, who joined Washington University’s Department of Economics last year, is internationally renowned for his contributions to the fields of econometrics and the theory of estimation. Much of his research is considered pioneering, especially on testing for structural change, and for analyzing testing procedures using a continuum of moment conditions. He helped formulate new criterion for estimating the order of models. With his colleague, Don W.K. Andrews, he has used concepts of modern asymptotic theory to construct optimal tests.

His research has been published in the top scholarly journals in economics, statistics, and econometrics, and has been included in several books. Ploberger teaches all levels and advises doctoral students.

“Werner’s international reputation is well-earned, and he brings to the Department of Economics a wealth of teaching and research experience,” stated Edward S. Macias, executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences, and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.

Ploberger’s first teaching position was at the Vienna University of Technology, where he received master’s and doctoral degrees in applied mathematics. The Austrian native has also taught at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Visiting positions have included the University of Montreal, Monash University in Australia, the University of Dortmund in Germany, and Yale University.

Thomas Eliot was the grandson of Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot, distant cousin of the great poet T.S. Eliot, and a distant descendent of Washington University co-founder and third chancellor, William Greenleaf Eliot.

The Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate served a term in Congress in 1940, where he focused on the preservation of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs, as well as the protection of civil liberties. He also helped draft and assist in the passage of the Social Security Act. During World War II, Eliot held a variety of government positions. Afterward, he became a partner in a Boston law firm, but still continued to serve special functions for the state of Massachusetts. He also taught government courses at Harvard and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Eliot joined the faculty of Washington University in 1952 as a professor and chair of the political science department. He then served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts (now Arts & Sciences) and as vice chancellor and dean of faculties before being named chancellor in 1962. He retired in 1971, and died in 1991 at age 84.

During his tenure as chancellor, Eliot led the University’s transformation from a mostly commuter school to its rise in national prominence, and oversaw its emergence as a modern institution of higher education.