Alumnus Wins Nobel Prize

2013 Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller in 1963Robert Shiller, who became famous for calling the housing and Internet stock bubbles, was one of three Americans to win the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics. Today, he’s a professor at Yale. In 1963, he was a freshman at Kalamazoo College (see photo at left). He stayed at K through fall of his sophomore year before transferring to the University of Michigan. A true liberal arts learner, he took classes during his five K quarters from Don Flesche (political science), Jean Calloway (mathematics) and Conrad Hilberry (English). Five quarters? How does a student accumulate five quarters by the end of fall of sophomore year? That’s a little known fact of the early K-Plan. One could opt to complete one’s undergraduate studies and graduate in three years. Very few students elected that option and it dropped from disuse. “My experience at K was great,” wrote Shiller recently, “and helped set me on my path. I remember that it was my admiration of Bruce Timmons, an economics major at K, that got me into economics. It wasn’t so much my experience taking economics at K, I only got a B+ in intro econ, as I recall, which I thought, momentarily, might mean that I just did not have talent in economics.” Regarding his transfer to University of Michigan: “The reason I did so is a little complicated to explain,” wrote Shiller. “My foreign language was Russian, and so I did not have any place to go for my junior year abroad, and all my classmates would be gone, so I thought I might just switch to U of M. Another reason was that I signed in to the K three-year program, originally to graduate in 1966, but began to think I wanted to experience more years as an undergrad, and I thought joining a big college newspaper staff (the Michigan Daily) would be great fun. More fun than staying behind when my whole class went abroad. So, that is what I did.” At K, Shiller was a member of the Delmega Society, a student organization that attracted mostly math and science majors and serious students. Another K connection was provided by Professor of Economics Hannah McKinney. Shiller and another professor team taught McKinney’s macroeconomics class during her first year of graduate school. Congratulations on the Nobel Prize, Professor Shiller. We’re proud of your K roots.