Washington University in St. Louis alumnus Bert Lynch (AB ’35, MA ’36) and his wife, Jeanette, have left a generous bequest that will support the study and teaching of economics through the creation of three new distinguished professorships in Arts & Sciences.
Steven Fazzari, PhD, a leading economics scholar known for an unwavering dedication to student mentoring in his three decades on the university faculty, will be installed Monday, April 21, as the inaugural Bert A. and Jeanette L. Lynch Distinguished Professor.
The Lynch estate, built on a successful box and packaging business, will also endow professorships named in honor of two of the most notable economics professors in university history, Douglass C. North, PhD, and the late Murray L. Weidenbaum, PhD.
North, the Spencer T. Olin Professor Emeritus in Arts & Sciences, joined WUSTL in 1983 as a Luce Professor. The co-recipient of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences is a pioneer in the field of institutional economics and a dedicated teacher. In addition to his teaching and research, North established the Center for New Institutional Social Sciences at WUSTL in 2001.
Weidenbaum, a longstanding authority on economic policy and government regulation who served as chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s first Council of Economic Advisers, died in March at age 87. Weidenbaum also was a veteran of the Department of Economics. In 1975, he founded the Center for the Study of American Business at WUSTL; in 2001, the center was renamed the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy; it became nationally recognized as an independent center that supports social-science research and organizes public outreach programs.
“It is deeply gratifying to honor the significant work and legacies of Doug North and Murray Weidenbaum through these professorships, as well as recognize Steve Fazzari’s important contributions to the profession,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.
“We are grateful to Bert and Jeanette Lynch for their very generous gift, which helps advance the study of economics at Washington University and provides our students access to some of the world’s very best scholars and teachers.”
Bert and Jeanette Lynch
A native of Blytheville, Ark., Bert Lynch moved to St. Louis to attend WUSTL, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1935 and a master’s degree in 1936, both in Arts & Sciences.
Native St. Louisan Jeanette Lichtenstein Lynch graduated from Mary Institute and attended WUSTL from 1933-34 before earning her degree in 1937 from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
After their marriage, Bert Lynch joined his father-in-law’s firm, Superior Folding Box Co., eventually taking over the operation. He sold the business to a Kansas City-based box company in the early 1980s. He died in 1997; his wife died in 2013.
“This gift significantly raises the already strong reputation of Washington University’s Department of Economics and will allow the department to continue to attract world-class faculty,” said Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor. “Thanks to Bert and Jeanette Lynch, our future economics students will be exposed to some of the greatest minds in the field.”
The Lynch-generated professorships bring to 14 the number of endowed professorships in the Department of Economics.
The Douglass C. North Distinguished Professorship and the Murray L. Weidenbaum Distinguished Professorship will help the university attract and retain top faculty in the field of economics. Appointments to these new professorships will be made later.
“Steve is both a leading scholar of Keynesian economics and one of our finest instructors,” said John Nachbar, PhD, professor and chair of economics.
“He was chair of the economics department for six years, during a critical period in which he laid the foundation for the expansion that began in 2005. And he has made many, many other significant contributions, both to Washington University and to the study of economics.”
In addition to his teaching and research, in 2008 Fazzari took on a new leadership role as associate director of the Weidenbaum Center. There, he helps oversee the generation of scholarly research and the development of public affairs programs and other activities that address some of the most pressing public policy issues facing America.
His research explores two main areas: the link between macroeconomic activity and finance, particularly the financial determinants of investment spending; and the foundations of Keynesian macroeconomics.
Known as a gifted and popular teacher with several awards to his credit, Fazzari often collaborates with his students — past and present — on research projects and publications.
One such initiative is an innovative online resource called the “Muddy Water Macro,” a website where Fazzari and a team of students present well-organized, thoughtful, and broadly accessible ideas that they believe are central to understanding Keynesian economics. (The site can be accessed here).
Born in Racine, Wis., Fazzari spent his college summers working in a local foundry. His scholarly beliefs were informed by his middle-class Midwestern sensibility, and this draws him to collaborate with other faculty, such as Mark R. Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare. They co-teach a course, “Economic Realities of the American Dream,” which examines the American Dream’s historical meaning, the traditional pathways to achieving it, and its viability for the future.
Fazzari said his need to truly understand macroeconomic theories for teaching sparked his research interests.
“My connection with students has meant a lot to me, and many of my research ideas have emerged from my teaching,” he said.
He stays connected to his former students as well. One of his longest research collaborations has been with Barry Cynamon (AB ’05), who is now a visiting scholar with the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
Most recently, they co-edited “After the Great Recession: The Struggle for Economic Recovery and Growth,” published in 2013, as well as a recent research paper widely cited in the national news providing solid evidence for why the U.S. economy has remained slow growing.
Cynamon explained the genesis of their collaboration:
“A conversation that began during office hours while I was taking Steve’s undergraduate macro seminar continued through graduate school, several research papers, an edited volume, and enough miles of walking and talking to keep us both in reasonably good shape.”
Fazzari continues to teach a wide range of macroeconomic courses, from introductory freshman classes to advanced doctoral seminars. His teaching has been recognized with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Excellence in Teaching Award from Emerson Electric Co., and WUSTL’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 2007.