Summers, Lawrence H.
SUMMERS, LAWRENCE H.
SUMMERS, LAWRENCE H. (1954– ) U.S. economist, secretary of the Treasury, 27th president of Harvard University. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Summers is the son of two noted economists, Robert and Anita Summers, and nephew of two Nobel laureates. His father's brother, Paul *Samuelson, won the Nobel prize in economics in 1970, and his mother's brother, Kenneth *Arrow, won the same prize two years later.
Larry Summers grew up in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, in the Philadelphia suburbs, and attended the Lower Merion public schools. At 16 he was accepted for admission to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in economics and was an active member of the debate team before graduating in 1975. For graduate school, Summers moved down the Charles River to Harvard University and studied under renowned economist Martin Feldstein. After completing his dissertation, "An Asset-Price Approach to Capital Income Taxation," Summers received his Ph.D. in economics in 1982. He had already been a member of the economics faculty at mit for three years, where he had been named an assistant professor in 1979 and an associate professor in 1982.
Upon receipt of his Ph.D., Summers went to Washington to serve as a domestic policy economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisors. One year later, Summers, then 28, returned to Harvard as the youngest member of the economics faculty to be granted tenure.
Summers' research at Harvard was broad ranging, with many of his most important contributions coming in the fields of public finance, labor economics, financial economics, and macroeconomics. He also produced research on topics in international economics, developmental economics, economic demography, and economic history.
In 1987, Summers was named Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy at Harvard and was the first social scientist to win the Congressionally established Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. In 1993, Summers received the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association, an award given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40.
Summers returned to Washington in 1991, serving this time as vice president of development economics and chief economist at the World Bank. Summers guided the Bank's research, statistics, and training programs, and created strategies for assisting developing nations and the Bank's global loans. Among his highest profile efforts was a publication that demonstrated the tremendous return on investing in educating girls in developing countries.
Two years later, President Clinton appointed Summers undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, under then-Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, giving Summers authority over building and executing U.S. international economic policy. In 1995, incoming Secretary Robert Rubin promoted Summers to the Treasury Department's number two post, deputy secretary of the Treasury, where he played a high-profile role handling many of the United States' economic, financial, and tax matters on the domestic and global stages. At this time, Summers worked closely with Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, formulating governmental responses to several financial crises in developing nations around the world.
When Rubin announced his resignation in 1999, President Clinton chose Summers to be the next secretary of the Treasury, and the Senate confirmed him on July 2. Summers remained Treasury secretary until President Clinton's second term ended in January 2001. As secretary, Summers served as the president's chief financial advisor. He managed a diverse department with a workforce of almost 150,000 employees spread across over a dozen bureaus and offices in such areas as trade policy, law enforcement, and currency production.
Summers's efforts as secretary of the Treasury include helping build an enormous pay down of U.S. national debt, managing the enactment of the most sweeping financial deregulation in 60 years, reforming the International Monetary Fund and international financial architecture as a whole, and securing debt relief for the world's poorest nations. At the conclusion of his term, Summers received the department's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Medal, named after the first secretary of the Treasury.
After leaving Treasury, Summers served as the Arthur Okun Distinguished Fellow in Economics, Globalization, and Governance at the Washington-based think-tank, the Brookings Institution. His work there continued to focus on international financial crises.
In the spring of 2001, after a nine-month search to replace outgoing President Neil Rudenstine, the President and Fellows of Harvard College announced their election of Summers, then 47, as the 27th president of Harvard University. Summers officially assumed the office on July 1, 2001. His tenure as president was marked by such university priorities as enhancing financial aid for students from families of modest means, expanding opportunities for students to study and work outside the United States, encouraging a comprehensive review and renewal of the undergraduate academic experience, spurring a range of interdisciplinary initiatives in the sciences as well as other academic domains, and planning for a major physical expansion of the Harvard campus. His address focusing attention on antisemitism in the world from the Chapel of Harvard University generated international attention. Summers began these well-publicized remarks by expressing astonishment that the world situation had so changed that he would have to speak forthrightly of this problem. Summers resigned the Harvard presidency in March 2006.
[Sheryl Sandberg (2nd ed.)]