Willamette alumnus accepted into National Academy of Sciences

by University Communications,

Dale Mortensen ’61, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Economics, was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Established in 1863, the academy’s purpose is to promote excellence in science — while providing independent, authoritative advice on matters related to science, engineering and medicine.

President Barack Obama addressed the academy at this year’s meeting, where 84 new members were elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

“It’s an honor that a Willamette alumnus was elected into this distinguished organization, and it reflects the value of a liberal arts education,” President Steve Thorsett says. “While only 3 percent of American college graduates are educated at a residential liberal arts college, 20 percent of recent inductees into the National Academy of Sciences are such graduates.”

When visiting campus in 2011 for his class’ 50th reunion, Mortensen shared his thoughts about the value of his liberal arts experience at Willamette and the importance of Richard Gillis — an economics professor who became Mortensen’s mentor.

Mortensen, the Ida C. Cook Professor of Economics at Northwestern University, shares a Nobel Prize with Peter Diamond and Christopher Pissarides, who pioneered a theory that helps explain why people remain unemployed despite many job vacancies.

The model can be used to estimate how unemployment benefits, interest rates, the efficiency of employment agencies and other factors affect the job market.