WVU’s College of Business and Economics recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the economics Ph.D. program with a two-day event in Morgantown. The April 21-22 event included a variety of events that saw attendees from across the U.S. and around the world.
“This was a terrific event that included program alumni from all over the world,” said Dr. Cliff Hawley, economics chair at B&E. “Jorge Guillen came from Peru, Javed Younas came from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and former professor Ron Balvers came from Canada. Chronologically and geographically, there was a wide spectrum of attendees.”
“The recent reunion organized by WVU’s Department of Economics was an incredibly special opportunity to reconnect with the department, college, university, and long-lost friends and colleagues,” said Dr. Adesoji O. Adelaja, the John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University.
The event included a Friday evening kickoff at Erickson Alumni Center with a poster exhibit session of current Ph.D. students, followed by an alumni reception. Saturday’s events included an alumni poster exhibit at B&E, a tour of the WVU Regional Research Institute, and reception and dinner at the alumni center.
“The two poster sessions brought people together and were impressive displays of economic scholarship,” Hawley said. “Two of our alumni discovered that they both were working on the same topic, the economics of terrorism. As the dinner was concluding Saturday night, the microphone was open and anyone who wanted to speak had the floor. Some of the comments were very moving.”
“This was a special moment for me, 33 years after I left WVU. My son, who also went to WVU, accompanied me, making the weekend even more special,” Adelaja said.
The initial students entered the B&E program in the fall semester of 1966, and the first two graduates received their degrees in 1969 — Douglas M. Brown and Robert G. Mogull. Brown began his career at Northeastern University in Boston, and then joined the faculty at Georgetown University in 1972 where he spent the rest of his career until retiring a few years ago. Robert Mogull spent his entire career on the faculty at California State University at Sacramento, and passed away in July 2015.
Dr. Joshua Hall, associate professor of economics at B&E and director of the Center for Free Enterprise, had a unique perspective on the event.
“As the only alumnus of WVU’s Ph.D. program who has become a WVU faculty member, this event was extra special for me as it showed me how my experience at WVU was not unique. While I was aware of the successes of our recent alumni, the 50th Anniversary celebration also connected the department back to our most celebrated graduates who have gone on to great careers in academia, government and the private sector. Engaging with our alumni will reap considerable dividends in terms of reputation and student placement.”
“The economics Ph.D. program at West Virginia University has been professionally valuable for our alums. We knew that,” said Hawley. “What became clear, though, through this event was how the faculty and the program produced personal experiences and personal fulfillment for our alums that have changed their lives.
“What a wonderful weekend of engagement. None of us want to wait another 50 years to do it again,” laughed Hawley. “I think we will try to build on this by holding an event at the Southern Economic Association meetings in the very near future.”
Dr. Brian Cushing, associate professor of economics at B&E, said the business school’s reputation of caring for its students was a topic of conversation at the anniversary celebration.
“It was interesting to hear John David (1972) comment to the group about the kindness and support he received from the economics faculty when he arrived in the late 1960s,” said Cushing. “This tradition of caring about and supporting our Ph.D. students, including opportunities to develop close relationships with their faculty mentors, was established from the beginning by the faculty and has carried through for 50 years. It has been one of the hallmarks of our program and I believe has contributed greatly to our success and the success of our students.”