At Minnesota, we understand that we stand on the shoulders of economists who came before us. Fortunately, many of the group that built the Department of Economics in the 50’s and early 60’s –have continued to make an enormous impact in and out of academia – John Chipman, Ed Foster, John Hause, Jack Kareken, Anne Krueger, George Perry, Ket Richter, Hugo Sonnenschein, Harlan Smith, and Neil Wallace.
Along the way though, we have lost many remarkable economists. The most obvious - Walter Heller and Leo Hurwicz for whom this institute was named – but there are so many more… Martin Bronfenbrenner, Oz Brownlee, John Buttrick, Jim Henderson, Cliff Hildreth, E. Scott Maynes, Andreas Papandreou, Jacob Schmookler, Jim Simler, and John Turnbull to name a few…that helped create a dynamic force in Minnesota.
Unfortunately for us, this year we add Professors Herb Mohring and Ed Coen to the list of those who have passed away. I’d like to say a few words about Herb and Ed because, in their own way, they both had a major influence on the development of Minnesota Economics.
Herb Mohring came to Minnesota in 1961 and taught until his retirement in 1994. Herb’s research influenced policymakers across the globe. He was best known for his work on transportation economics themes such as efficient pricing and capacity provision and the resulting implications for self-financing, and scale economies in public transport. Herb was one of the first to come up with the idea of charging highway fees as a way to relieve traffic congestion -- a concept known as "congestion pricing."
Though Herb often credited others in the Economics Department for creating a collegial environment, he too had a wonderful sense of community and a great sense of humor. Herb and his wife Popie were known to host annual "Dammit, School's Beginning" parties every August. It was a party not to be missed! Herb was a gracious economist whose sanity, common sense (and sometimes biting wit) I appreciated a great deal when I first came to Minnesota 25 years ago.
Ed Coen came to Minnesota in 1952 and taught until his retirement in 1989. Ed was a long-time Director of Undergraduate Education and was best known for being extremely generous of his time with students– both at the undergraduate and graduate level. According to one of his students, “Ed was such a fine teacher that he made difficult subjects seem easy. He never tried to show off his mastery of difficult subjects by making them even more difficult. He understood his subjects so well as to make them accessible to all his students.”
And, to quote one of our former staff members, “Ed’s delightful sense of humor, sensitivity to students’ concerns, and dedication to the Economics program at the University of Minnesota enhanced the environment of the department during the decades he was on the faculty.”
I am saddened by the lost of two tremendous men who left incredible legacies in our Department of Economics. The Institute is dedicated to standing for the conviction that Herb and Ed shared that the world will become a better place as we teach our students and educate the public about economics.
V V Chari
Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute