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Renowned economist McCloskey visits Beloit as Upton Scholar

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During the week of Monday, Oct. 31, Beloit College played host to its ninth annual Miller Upton Forum. 2016’s Miller Upton scholar was Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, the Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at University of Illinois-Chicago and is renowned as one of the most influential economists of her time. She took part in panels, gave several talks, and visited classes throughout her week in Beloit.       

McCloskey, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1964; she would later receive her Ph.D in Economics in 1970, also from Harvard. In 1968, McCloskey received her first teaching job as an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago. She remained there for 12 years, earning tenure as an associate professor of economics in 1975, and then an associate professorship in history in 1979. She later taught at the University of Iowa as the John Murray Professor of Economics and of History from 1980 to 1999. McCloskey has been a professor at UI-Chicago since 2000. Throughout her life, McCloskey, born a male, slowly realized her female identity, and transitioned from male to female in 1995 at the age of 53.

An expert in a variety of fields, McCloskey has authored 17 books and 400 scholarly works, with topics ranging from technical economics and statistical theory to transgender advocacy and bourgeois virtues. Her best-known books are The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2010), and Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016), all of which make up “The Bourgeois Era” trilogy. Other notable works include The Rhetoric of Economics (1985), The Cult of Statistical Significance (co-authored with Stephen Ziliak in 2008), and her textbook The Applied Theory of Price, which has influenced many leading economists in recent history. McCloskey also penned a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Crossing: A Memoir (1995), which tells the story of her recognition of her female identity and describes her life following sex-reassignment surgery.

The first Upton Forum event– a panel discussion, “The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, I”– took place on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. in the Richardson Auditorium. Several Beloit professors gave presentations: Allen-Bradley Endowed Chair in Economics and Department Chair of the Department of Economics Bob Elder kicked off the event, followed by assistant economics professor Laura Grube’08. English professor Chuck Lewis and Critical Identity Studies chair and professor Catherine Orr also presented on Wednesday. McCloskey gave a brief response following each presentation.

More presentations followed at 7 p.m. in the Richardson Auditorium on Thursday night for the second panel discussion, “The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, II.” Several former Beloit professors took the stage on Thursday. Washington College (Chestertown, Md.) Provost and Dean of College Emily Chamlee-Wright’s talk opened the night; Chamlee-Wright taught economics at Beloit from 1993 to 2012, and was also Associate Dean from 2010 to 2012. West Virginia University Associate Professor of Economics Joshua Hall, who taught economics as an assistant professor at Beloit from 2007-2013, presented second. George Mason University Research Associate Professor of Economics Virgil Storr’96 closed out the second panel.

The final panel discussion, “The Ideas and Influence of Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, III,” was held on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Moore Lounge. Northwestern University economics and history professor Joel Mokyr, Chapman University (Orange, Calif.) economics and law professor Bart Wilson, and Ziliak– an economics professor at Roosevelt University– each gave a presentation.

McCloskey then gave her keynote address  “The June and Edgar Martin Memorial Lecture” on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Science Center atrium. The talk was preceded by a dinner and followed by a reception.

Beloit has held the Miller Upton Forum annually since its inception in 2008. Through the contributions of each year’s Miller Upton Scholar, the Miller Upton Forum hopes to engage the Beloit community in the queries of what drives the wealth and well-being of top nations. Each year’s Miller Upton Scholar is selected based on the importance of their work and advancing students’ knowledge about how to promote health and well-being, and is joined during the four-day forum by other top scholars. Beloit’s economics senior seminar (ECON 380) is based on the teachings of that year’s Miller Upton Scholar.

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