Buera installed as Cook Professor

Francisco Buera
Buera delivers remarks at the ceremony installing him as the Sam B. Cook Professor of Economics, held May 7 at Washington University. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

Francisco Buera has been named the Sam B. Cook Professor of Economics at Washington University in St. Louis. He was installed May 7 at a ceremony in Ridgley Hall’s Holmes Lounge.

Buera’s research and scholarly expertise focus on the patterns of economic development across countries and over time. Before joining the Arts & Sciences faculty at Washington University, he served as a senior economist and research adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He previously held positions at University of California, Los Angeles, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern University.

The endowed professorship was made possible by a generous gift from the late Sam B. Cook, a prominent banker and philanthropist who had served as president and chief executive officer of Central Bancompany. A former member of the Washington University Board of Trustees, Cook was a longtime advocate of higher education in Missouri who cared deeply about academic affairs and believed that, with the right teacher, economics could be fascinating to learn.

“Sam Cook’s legacy at Washington University is deep and rich,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “His vision for higher education — particularly in the field of economics —  was inspirational. We are indebted to him for his valuable contributions as a university trustee and for his generosity and his enthusiasm for teaching and learning. We are proud to carry on his passion for economics through his enduring gift.”

“When Sam Cook endowed this professorship in his name, he made it clear that he believed in the power of economics to enlighten and inform students across a wide variety of academic disciplines,” said Barbara A. Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor. “Francisco Buera is an outstanding scholar in the field, one whose research has both theoretical impact and practical implications that can make a real-world difference. This is the type of scholarship that embodies the spirit of Mr. Cook’s intention.”

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Buera completed his undergraduate studies in economics at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in 1993. By that time, he already had lived through three hyperinflations, among other financial and banking crises in the country, which inspired him to seek an alternative to Argentina’s long history of failed development policies. He began graduate work at the University of Chicago to design quantitative macroeconomic models that can be used to evaluate alternative macroeconomic policies.

Buera’s research has focused on particular aspects of economic development, such as the structural changes associated with development; the role of financial frictions in affecting the process; and the diffusion of technologies, economic policies and institutions across countries. His work aims to fill the gap between empirical and theoretical work in the field and lies at the intersection of macro and development. The associate editor of the Review of Economic Studies and the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, Buera’s work has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation and the Consortium of Financial Systems and Poverty at the University of Chicago.

About Sam B. Cook

Believing there was a critical need for the next generation of leaders to have a solid understanding of macroeconomic theory and free-market principles, Cook was a lifelong supporter of higher education and the field of economics in particular. He attended the University of Missouri for two years before his education was interrupted when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was called to active duty in World War II. He served in France, Belgium and Germany, earning the Meritorious Service Award. He was honorably discharged in 1946 at the rank of captain in the 3rd Infantry Division.

Upon returning to the United States, Cook enrolled at Yale University, from which he graduated in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree and special honors in economics. He began his banking career at Chase Manhattan National Bank in New York City. He returned to Missouri in 1950 to join his father at Central Missouri Trust Company, where he became president and chief executive officer in 1961 and formed Central Bancompany in 1970. He served as chairman of the board of The Central Trust Bank and Central Bancompany from 1981 until 2008, when he stepped down from active leadership and his son, S. Bryan Cook, was named president and CEO of the company. Under Sam Cook’s leadership, Central Bancompany grew to be one of the largest and most respected bank holding companies in Missouri. It now has assets of $12 billion, with 13 affiliates in four states, and continues to be listed on Forbes’ list of “Best Banks in America.”

In addition to serving on the Washington University Board of Trustees, Cook also was a member of the boards of William Woods University and the University of Missouri. He also served on statewide committees and boards charged with improving Missouri’s public higher education system. In his later years, Cook was a philanthropist for causes that were important to him. Along with his gift to Washington University, he also established a chair in economics at the University of Missouri and contributed to Yale University. He died in 2016 at age 94.

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