Brandeis International Business School

Janet Yellen awarded Dean’s Medal

Former Fed chair pays tribute to late Brandeis professor Rachel McCulloch

Dean Kathryn Graddy gives the Dean's Medal to former Fed Chair Janet Yellen in recognition of her exemplary career.

Dean Kathryn Graddy gives the Dean's Medal to former Fed Chair Janet Yellen in recognition of her exemplary career.

Brandeis International Business School Dean Kathryn Graddy honored former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen with the 2019 Dean’s Medal Sept. 21 in recognition of her distinguished and trailblazing career as an economist.

The Dean’s Medal is the International Business School’s top honor. Yellen appeared at Spingold Theater to commemorate the school’s 25th anniversary with a thorough and insightful analysis of the U.S. economic outlook, and to remember her close friend Rachel McCulloch, the late economist and Brandeis University professor.

 In front of a crowd of more than 600 members of the Brandeis community, Graddy highlighted Yellen’s accomplishments — which included a successful career as a university professor before she rose through the ranks of the Federal Reserve system to become the first woman to lead America’s central bank. Yellen is currently a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution.

“Prof. Yellen has set the highest possible standard for what it means to succeed as an economist,” said Graddy. “But even more importantly, there is no public figure that I know that has demonstrated more integrity, intelligence and leadership.”

Yellen thanked Graddy for the honor, highlighting the International Business School’s global perspective, innovative spirit and her own personal connection through McCulloch.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Yellen. “It’s been a pleasure to participate in this reunion and to honor my good friend and colleague, Rachel McCulloch. Let me thank you not only for the medal, but for the wonderful and important job you’re doing in training a generation of leaders who will be prepared to lead in the global economy to address the complex challenges we face, and to understand the need for global cooperation in addressing those challenges.”

Before Yellen’s conversation with Prof. Stephen Cecchetti, Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz announced the formation of the Rachel McCulloch Endowed Scholarship Fund to memorialize her lasting mark on generations of Brandeis students.

“She subsequently helped to establish the PhD program at the International Business School, served as the Chair of the Economics Department, and was central in our efforts to bring together undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members from the International Business School and the Economics Department to create a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that continues to define how we educate our students,” Liebowitz said.

Yellen said she was pleased to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary, especially given McCulloch’s influence on its founding and evolution, and to mark the establishment of a scholarship in her name.

“This is a fitting tribute because Rachel played an important part in the founding of this school,” Yellen said. “Rachel was a distinguished economist who made enormous contributions to the understanding of the field of international economic policy. She weighed in on virtually all of the major trade policy debates of our times.”

 Yellen ticked off a list of McCulloch’s prestigious university appointments and touched on the areas of economic thought and research McCulloch had contributed to — many of them still pressing issues today, including the impact of trade on income inequality, the growing role of China in global trade relations, and the relationship between trade and the environment, among many others.

Yellen said she developed her lifelong friendship with McCulloch when both found themselves in the male-dominated economics department at Harvard University in the 1970s.

“We shared an interest in international economic policy  and quickly became fast friends,” said Yellen. “Over the next several years, we co-authored a series of papers on global flows of technology, capital and workers, and in the process had a great deal of fun.”

Their hard work, keen intellects and persistence helped set a leading example for women economists everywhere.

“I miss Rachel tremendously, and I'm delighted to have this chance to honor her today,” Yellen said.