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Department History Timeline

The University of Michigan Campus, 1855; original in the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

At a time when Eastern universities were heavy with ancient languages and literature, with religion and philosophy, and with mathematics and a nod to ancient history—the classical curriculum—[Augustus] Woodward had boldly emphasized science and introduced economics for the University of Michigania. He was cracking an old and powerful tradition.

—The Making of the University of Michigan, 1817-1992, Howard H. Peckham, edited and updated by Margaret L. Steneck and Nicholas H. Steneck,University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI, 175th Anniversary Edition, p. 6

1817  The Catholepistemiad of Michigania is founded when Augustus B. Woodward’s education plan is adopted as part of territorial law. Woodward’s plan includes 13 didaxiim (professorships) including oeconomica (economics).

1837  A professor of political economy is specified when the state legislature establishes the University of Michigan.

1841 Literary Department (Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts) opens with Henry S. Frieze appointed first dean. It becomes a college in 1915.

1870 The earliest mention (Michigan University Book, 1880) of an LSA undergraduate degree recipient going on to a career in economics, is Bernard Moses, bachelors of philosophy, 1870. Moses would become a professor of history and political economy at the University of California. He would also serve as president of the Alumni Association of the Pacific Coast.

1880 When U-M President James B. Angell, who had been teaching classes in economics, was granted leave to become U.S. Minister to China, the Board of Regents appoints Henry Carter Adams as the new “Lecturer upon Political Economy.” Adam’s earliest activities are conducted in University Hall (predecessor to Angell Hall).

1880 Katharine Coman, who studied economics under U-M President James B. Angell, graduates and is appointed professor at Wellesley College. Coman taught the first course in economics at Wellesley after convincing Wellesley administration that economics was a subject “both suitable and necessary to the education of women”.

1885 Henry Carter Adams, along with Richard T. Ely and others, help found the American Economic Association. Adams will serve as the AEA’s fourth president.

1887 Adams is appointed as U-M’s first full professor of political economy.

1888 Graduate student Frederick Hicks is appointed by Henry Carter Adams to be the first graduate assistant in the Department. Hicks earns the first PhD in political economy from the University of Michigan and becomes an instructor in economics at the University of Cincinnati where he would later become president.

1892 Adams is joined by Fred Manville Taylor as assistant professor ofpolitical economy and finance. Economics now has two faculty members. Two years later (1894), when Tappan Hall, named for the University’s first president, Henry P. Tappan, is built, Adams and Taylor (hence the Economics Department) are transferred here. Today, Tappan Hall is the oldest extant classroom building on the U-M campus.

1902 Bernard Moses receives an honorary degree from the University of Michigan.

1908 For the first time, U-M economics has a home of its own on campus when the south part of the old Chemistry Building is designated as the Economics Building.

1912-1913 At the undergraduate level, economics courses are offered to students as an elective in the Literary Department. In this academic year (when available records were begun), there were 793 enrollments in introductory economics courses and 822 in more advanced economics.

1913/1914 Henry Carter Adams secures the first gifts for graduate study in the Department from Frank H. Hecker and Joseph Boyer (image, right) of Detroit. Boyer is a partner at Burroughs Corp. The gifts total $2,500 and provide funding that is primarily used to support two fellows in transportation for two years or more.

1914 Dorothy Miles Brown becomes of the first woman to receive her PhD in economics at U-M. She was the first of three economists hired (at the fledgling Federal Reserve Board) by Walter Stewart as a result of his connections with the U-M. She received all three of her degrees from  Michigan and was a graduate student 

1915  College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (previously the Literary Department) is established.during Stewart’s tenure.

1924 Angell Hall is completed and the economics and mathematics libraries are combined on its third floor.

1930-1931 The College of LSA establishes a program of concentrated study for students during the last two years of college and  the Department of Economics became responsible for upperclassmen concentrating in economics.

1952 Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics is established with a grant from the Ford Foundation. Lawrence Klein serves as the first director and is assisted by U-M graduate students in economics. One of those students is Arthur Goldberger, AM ’52 econ, PhD ’58 econ, who works with Klein to put together a new model of the U.S. economy, the Klein-Goldberger Model. At the invitation of Colin Clark, “the intrepid Australian statistical economist”, Klein and Goldberger write a paper for the Manchester Guardian Weekly based on their model results for their 1953-1954 forecasts.  The article appears on 1 January 1954 and, Klein would note years later, was published “in large display accompanied by an intriguing [David] Low cartoon” (pictured above).

1961 Robert V. Roosa, PhD ’42, appointed Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs (1961-64).

1962 H. Gardner Ackley, PhD ’40, is appointed to the President’s Council of Economic Advisers by President John F. Kennedy. In 1964 he is named chairman by Lyndon B. Johnson. Ackley was a member of the Economics faculty for 43 years. He also served as ambassador to Italy (1968-1969). He was president of the American Economic Association in 1982.

1966 Economics Professor William Haber is named dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

1969 Robert E. Nederlander, Sr., AB ’55 econ, JD ‘58law is elected to the U-M Board of Regents. He will serve in this position until 1984. In 1990 he is awarded an honorary degree from the University. Today he is chairman & CEO of Nederlander Company LLC, owner and/or operator of Nederlander theatres outside New York City; a director of the Nederlander Organization, Inc., the owner and/or operator of nine Broadway theatres in New York City; and the president of Nederlander Television and Film Productions, Inc.  

1971 The Graduate Economics Society is founded.

1973 The Michigan Economics Society (MES) is founded.

1974 The Masters of Applied Economics program is established.

1974 Gerald R. Ford becomes the 38th president of the United States following the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. Ford received his AB in economics in 1938 at the University of Michigan.

1980 Harold T. Shapiro, professor of economics and vice president for academic affairs, is selected by the Board of Regents to serve as the tenth president of the University of Michigan.

1981 Economics Professor Peter Steiner is named dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

1982 The Economics Department is temporarily relocated to the North Ingalls Building (formerly St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital). When it is later determined that the historic Economics Building is too damaged to be restored,the building is razed.

1986 The Economics Department moves to permanent headquarters in Lorch Hall (formerly the Architecture and Design Building).

1996 The Economics Leadership Council, the Department’s alumni advisory board, is established.

1999 Dean Baker, PhD ’88, is co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in DC.

2006 The market close of May 18 is the inception for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index developed by Robert J. Shiller, AB ’67, and Karl E. Case.