Nobel laureate receives honorary degree

The former professor received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2011.

by Tyler Gieseke


A former University of Minnesota professor and Nobel laureate received an honorary University degree during a ceremony Monday. 

Thomas Sargent won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2011 along with Christopher Sims, both former faculty members in the University’s Department of Economics.

The University presented Sargent with a Doctor of Science degree — the highest award given by the University Board of Regents — after he gave a lecture to event attendees, University spokeswoman Tessa Eagan said.

Christopher Phelan, professor and chair of the Department of Economics, said he felt the event demonstrated the widespread respect held for Sargent.

Phelan said it’s one thing to be a great scholar or a great teacher, but “it’s rare to have somebody who’s both.”

Sargent was a professor at the University during the 1970s and 1980s, Phelan said, and is currently a professor of economics at New York University. He received his doctorate in economics from Harvard University.

The research recognized by the Nobel Prize, which Sargent and Sims conducted separately but the prize committee considered complementary, examined cause and effect in the economy, according to a University news release. 

For example, the rational expectations model was developed mainly while the two professors were colleagues at the University. The theory states that since consumers and investors will change their behavior in response to a new government policy, those policies don’t often produce their desired effects.

“Both Sargent and Sims are giants in the field of macroeconomics,” Phelan said.

Including Sargent and Sims, the University claims ties to 23 Nobel laureates, seven of which are part of the Department of Economics, according to a University website.

The University offers honorary degrees for “acknowledged eminence” in cultural affairs, public service and contribution to knowledge. Since the first was awarded in 1925, the University has presented 266 honorary degrees.

“It’s definitely not a common thing,” Eagan said.

From 2000 to 2008, more than 100 individuals received honorary degrees.

Although Sims will also receive an honorary degree from the University, Eagan said a ceremony isn’t likely to take place this semester.