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Beatrice and Laurits Christensen

Laurits Christensen '63 and his wife, Beatrice Christensen. Photo: provided.

Christensens fund two economics faculty fellowships

Laurits R. Christensen '63 and his wife, Beatrice Christensen, are helping Cornell hire two new economics professors. They did it with the help of two challenge matches – the university's Faculty Renewal Sesquicentennial Challenge and a separate challenge from trustee Don Opatrny '74.

The Christensens' gift of $1 million was matched by $1 million from Opatrny and $1 million in university faculty renewal funds, yielding $3 million for the Department of Economics' ambitious hiring campaign.

The department's efforts are part of the universitywide plan to recruit the next generation of Cornell faculty, bringing in rising stars in anticipation of expanding needs and retirements of distinguished professors, with Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellowships.

Christensen has had a long career as an economist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and with his own consulting company, Christensen Associates. Now that he is "mostly retired" (he remains chairman of Christensen Associates), he has the time to invest in the institutions that have shaped his success. Christensen came to Cornell to study engineering, but after taking classes in the College of Arts and Sciences, he says he found the most inspirational professors – and excitement – in the field of economics.

A longtime annual donor to Cornell, Christensen was inspired to increase his giving and target the department from which he graduated because of his 50th reunion and the gift match opportunity.

"Money that will make a significant impact over the next five years resonated with me," says Christensen. He's excited that "bringing in promising talent at the junior level has the ability to positively influence the newly reorganized department." Kevin Hallock, the Donald C. Opatrny '74 Chair of the Economics Department and Joseph R. Rich '80 Professor, remarked: "This gift will be of extraordinary help in advancing our goals quickly."

The Department of Economics underwent a reorganization in 2011, when faculty from two departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the ILR School were combined into one universitywide program. A small number of distinguished senior faculty members from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the College of Human Ecology and the Dyson School have joint appointments in the department. Economics is now among the largest departments at Cornell.

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