Paul Courant named Distinguished University Professor, chooses to honor Ned Gramlich

July 18, 2019

On Thursday the Regents named Paul Courant, professor of public policy, as a Distinguished University Professor, effective September 1. This distinction is the University’s most prestigious professorship, which recognizes senior faculty who have exceptional scholarly achievements, a national reputation for academic excellence, and a superior record of teaching, mentoring, and service. Courant also holds the distinctions of Harold T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship.

Part of the recognition is the opportunity to name the professorship after a person of distinction in their field of research. Paul has selected the title of “Edward M. Gramlich Distinguished University Professor of Economics and Public Policy” to honor Ned Gramlich, who twice served as director of the Ford School's predecessor, the Institute of Public Policy Studies, and was the school's first dean, having led the transition to the School of Public Policy in 1995. Courant and Gramlich authored many papers together through the years, including on tax reform and the federal budget deficit. Gramlich was one of the world’s leading policy economists, and his work covered the landscape of important policy problems over the last fifty years. He also served the University as interim provost, and the nation as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

Courant first joined the University of Michigan in 1973 as an assistant professor of economics and public policy, and during his tenure has served as university librarian and dean of libraries, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, associate provost for academic and budgetary affairs, chair of the Department of Economics, director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies (predecessor to the Ford School), and interim provost.

He has made an impact in myriad ways that have benefited students, the university as an institution, and higher education more broadly. One example is his work to develop the U-M budget model, which has been in place for two decades and is the gold standard among higher education institutions. Another is his teaching, including creating “Systematic Thinking: Problems of the Day” (PubPol201). More than 1,200 students have taken this course since its creation in 2006, with the issues shifting over time (as the course title suggests) to stay current with timely policy topics. Part of his enduring legacy is crafting the agreement that allowed Google to scan the research libraries’ books, which led to the creation of Google Book Search and the HathiTrust digital library. HathiTrust is one of the largest digital book collections anywhere in the world, providing blind students and those with learning and cognitive disabilities access via assistive technology devices, scholars the opportunity to mine the 16-million-book collection for research, and anyone with an internet connection the ability to read books that are in the public domain.

The Ford School’s Bob Axelrod also holds the designation of Distinguished University Professor Emeritus. Earl Lewis, new to the Ford School faculty, and John Z. Ayanian, faculty by courtesy, also received the designation at the July 18 Regents meeting.

He will deliver an inaugural lecture during the academic year to formally mark the appointment.

Congratulations, Paul!