Stokey asks all to embrace change

The world is constantly changing for the better and today’s graduates will play a large role in future revolutions, said economic growth and development expert Nancy Stokey.

Stokey spoke to 470 graduates from the Faculty of Social Science at the Wednesday, June 13 morning session of Western’s 299th Convocation. Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) upon Stokey in recognition of her work on economic dynamics and the mathematical basis for much of modern macroeconomics.

Four decades ago, when Stokey began her career in economics, there was a shift in the number of women in the field and the Digital Age was just around the corner, she said.

“No one could foresee in any detail how those revolutions would play out,” she said.

Stokey earned her B.A. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1978, where she studied under Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow. She graduated at a time when there were very few women in the economics profession and went on to achieve many accomplishments that were firsts for women in the profession.

She began her career at Northwestern University, where she taught for 12 years before moving in 1990 to the University of Chicago, arguably the best economics department in the world. Stokey was elected to the Fellows of the Econometric Society in 1988, a prestigious distinction held by only a few economists and very few women.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has held the positions of vice-president of the American Economic Association from 1996-97 and co-editor of top journals such as the Journal of Political Economy and Econometrica.

Stokey told graduates their future, similarly uncertain, is bright nevertheless.

“Now, for you sitting here today, be aware that the next 40 years will surely bring great changes which you have no inkling of now. Let me say to you, as you finish this phase of your life and begin the next, just keep in mind that the world continues to change, and often very quickly,” said Stokey, co-developer of the no-trade theorem.

In her citation, Economics professor Audra J. Bowlus said it is rare to find an academic whose influence extends from graduate students to researchers to world policy-makers. She adds her most lasting impression comes from Stokey’s book, Recursive Methods in Economic Dynamics, co-authored with husband, Robert Lucas, Jr., and a required read for every Ph.D. student in economics.

“As a student I also remember when Stokey and Lucas visited to give talks. I was in awe to meet the authors of the book we had pored through as students,” Bowlus said. “And, as a female economist, I was doubly in awe to meet Nancy, a woman who had made it big in the same profession I was desperately trying to get into. So for many of us, her accomplishments as a mentor and role model far outweigh the others.”

Stokey added graduates would surely be catalysts of positive change.

“You’re the ones that can, and will, and should change (the world) further, but you may not realize how big these changes are until 40 years from now, when you’re looking back,” Stokey said.