Kennedy School Celebrates Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling

October 5, 2006
Liz Tempesta

Thomas C. Schelling, one of the founding “parents” of the modern-day Kennedy School of Government and winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in economics, was celebrated for his achievements on Thursday evening at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

What was an emotionally charged event began with several panelists who were former colleagues of Schelling. Edith Stokey – a lecturer in public policy and also recognized as instrumental in the creation of the Kennedy School – set the tone of the evening, “usually when we gather here in the Forum we’re coming to listen to an array of experts who debate the issues of the day. Some of us come looking for fireworks, hoping to see a scorched devo or two, but tonight all is different. Tonight we are celebrating.”

Stokey praised the relevance of Schelling’s work and the impact it has had, “He embeds his insight in a familiar context – hockey helmets, thermostats, crowded highways – using the familiar to attract our interest and strengthen our understanding. It is a powerful teaching model.”

Panelist, Richard Zeckhauser – professor of political economy at the Kennedy School – explains what Tom Schelling’s career represents, which is “Tom Schelling learning from the real world and vice versa, mainly the world has learned from Tom Schelling.”

Schelling is internationally renowned for his work on game theory, specifically in regards to the dangers of nuclear war. “He worked tirelessly – as scholar, major government advisor, and frequent international participant – from the 1950s through today to make nuclear war less possible,” Zeckhauser said.

The event culminated with Schelling’s description of what is was like being awarded the Nobel Prize. “It made so many of my friends so very happy.…It turned out to be the most exhilarating part of it all.”

Stokey described the elation that swept the Kennedy School community when the award was announced last October. “It was more than excitement...it was a universal recognition of what you have contributed to this school and a heartfelt demonstration of our deep felt affection for you.”

In 2004, the Kennedy School created an award in Schelling’s name. The Thomas C. Schelling Award is bestowed annually to an individual whose remarkable intellectual work has had a transformative impact on public policy.

Dean David Ellwood remarked on Schelling’s impact as a teacher, “he takes very simple ideas or concepts, or simple stories and converts them into very big and powerful ideas.”

Thomas Schelling returns to the Kennedy School next fall to deliver the Edward L. Godkin lecture.

To view this event online, visit the Forum archive-
http://iopforum.harvard.edu:8080/ramgen/fr20061005nobel.rm

Photos: Martha Stewart

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