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SCOTT MCKINNEY

Thank you, President Gearan. One of the things that social scientists do is to analyze the behavior of individuals, groups, institutions, governments. Economists tend to ask questions about goals and how we use resources to achieve those goals. Do we have a decision-making process in place that results in the efficient use of our resources? For example, the early economic analysis of environmental problems focused on the mismatch between the goals of polluting firms – to maximize profits – and the goals of society – which might include clean water as well as the efficient production of the firm’s products. The early economic analysis of government asked if the goals of the bureaucrat were at all related to the goals society had when it created government.

For someone trained in this analytical tradition, behavior in a private, non-profit, liberal arts college has always been something of a mystery. I do not mean any disrespect for the leadership on the Board, in the administration, in the faculty, on the staff, among the students, among the alums, people with whom I have worked for many years now and for whom I have the highest regard. We are fortunate to have excellent and intelligent leadership. What I do mean to do is suggest the difficulty of thinking analytically about an institution which has so many groups involved in decision-making and which is required to say: "Don't tempt me; I will not make a profit!"

Nonetheless, over the 24 years that I have been here, I have observed the Colleges taking great strides forward. Challenging goals have been set, effective policies developed and implemented that, in innumerable ways, have made the Colleges a better place in which to learn, in which to teach. And certainly Stern Hall is a very important one of those innumerable ways.

The process of building Stern Hall has been, and continues to be, quintessential non-profit behavior. Who is in charge? Where were the decisions being made? It seemed as if there were entirely too many cooks, but the proof is in the pudding. When I work in my office, when I teach in the computer lab, when I run into my colleagues (or, at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, the President and Buddy) in the lounge, when I hold class in the first floor seminar room, when I walk the delightfully decorated halls, when I run into 15 of my students in one morning, I know that we have done well.

The analytical problem remains. But, allow me to use, misuse, or abuse a little Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act I, scene 5, lines 164-167):

Horatio: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

Hamlet: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

So this economist must conclude that there are wondrous ways, difficult to analyze, in which this institution uses and coordinates the vision and wisdom, energy and resources of many individuals and groups to create a great environment for learning. So on behalf of the faculty, those who reside in Stern Hall, those who teach in Stern Hall, those who simply enjoy the way it looks next to Smith Hall, I wish to thank the whole Stern family, The Board of Trustees, President Gearan, the alums, the architects Pam, Nate, Paul, Chris, Aaron, Steve, Tom, the guys who laid brick in the cold, the guys who poured concrete in the rain. The Colleges are a much better place to learn and to teach for these two and a half years of work.

Thank you.

 

 

INFORMATION

Dedication of Stern Hall, Remarks Representing the Faculty, Scott McKinney, The William R. Kenan, Jr. Endowed Professor of Economics

Sept. 9, 2003