"Ned was right" conference at the Fed

June 10, 2014

Over three decades of service, Founding Dean Ned Gramlich helped shape the Ford School's mission and vision, and served as an exemplar of what it means to be a world-class policy professor. He conducted extensive and widely-respected research, both theoretical and applied, and shared his findings broadly in books, scholarly journal articles, policy briefs, and frequent interactions with policy leaders. He served in alternating, and sometimes simultaneous, leadership positions in government and academia, including as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board and acting director of the Congressional Budget Office. And, wherever he went, whatever he did, he demonstrated thoughtfulness, humor, and camaraderie as a teacher, mentor, and colleague.

This year, during the Ford School's centennial, we set out to celebrate Ned's lasting legacy with "Honoring Ned Gramlich and the Importance of Policy Research," a conference sponsored by the Ford School and hosted at the Federal Reserve Board headquarters in Washington, DC. The May 30 conference brought together an impressive group of scholars and leaders to illuminate current fiscal policy issues. Among them, four former directors of the Congressional Budget Office and panelists and moderators from a dozen prestigious organizations including the Urban Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Federal Reserve Board, the Council of Economic Advisers, and more.

There was no interesting public policy question that Ned couldn't add value to, former CBO Director Robert Reischauer told conference observers, and indeed, that sentiment was echoed throughout the day. The panelists shared numerous stories about Ned's contributions to a broad range of fiscal and monetary policy challenges. When most people had never heard of a subprime mortgage loan, Ned was warning about them, and recommending policy to ameliorate the growing problem, said Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute. Ned was a real champion of consumer protection and community development—a hard act to follow said Sandra Braunstein, former director of the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer and Community Affairs Division.

Two common threads were woven through all of these stories: Ned's methodologically rigorous policy research, which he used to guide policy, and Ned's famous collegiality and humor. Ned knew that getting the policy research right was essential to getting the policy right, said current CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf. Before Ned joined the Fed, the organization's culture was "Mount Olympus," said Sandra Braunstein. You didn't go unless summoned; then Ned came in, and everything changed.

More than 100 colleagues and former students of Ned's attended the conference, as did most of Ned's family, who were present throughout the day. In the evening, honoring Ned's love for baseball and contributions as director of Major League Baseball's 1992 economic study commission, conference guests, alumni, and students attended a Washington Nationals game, where the Nationals pummeled the Texas Rangers under perfect weather—Ned would have loved it.

View photos from the conference and game, request a commemorative poster by contacting Erin Flores at erinren[at]umich.edu, and watch the tribute video, "A Celebration of Lifetime Professional Achievement," produced by the Ford School and Urban Institute prior to Ned's death in 2007. For those who wish to honor Ned Gramlich in a lasting way, contributions can be made to the Gramlich Fund, a student support endowment established in Ned's honor. Ned's family will be notified of all gifts made in his honor.