Dr. Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, will be awarded the prestigious Elizabeth Blackwell Award by Hobart and William Smith Colleges during a ceremony at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 22. The appointment of Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve in February 2014 made her the first woman ever to hold the central bank’s highest office during its 101-year history.
An expert on economic policy and macroeconomics specializing in the causes, mechanisms and implications of unemployment, Yellen also serves as chair of the Federal Open Market Committee, the principal monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve. Responsible for a balance sheet of more than $4 trillion at the Federal Reserve, Yellen was named by Forbes in 2014 as the world’s second most powerful woman and sixth most powerful person. In 2010, Yellen began a 14-year appointment with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, serving first as vice chair before taking over as chair. Previously, Yellen was chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) at the White House during the Clinton Administration.
“Hobart and William Smith Colleges are proud to bestow the 40th Elizabeth Blackwell Award to Dr. Janet Yellen, who has had an accomplished and internationally respected career in economics and policymaking,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “Throughout her remarkable career of more than four decades, Dr. Yellen has worked tirelessly around efforts to curb unemployment and advance the American Dream. A year ago, Dr. Yellen made history by becoming the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve System, a role in which her influence resonates across the country and around the globe. With this award, named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a Doctor of Medicine degree in the United States, we recognize Dr. Yellen for setting new heights and for inspiring us.”
As chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen has been lauded for her credentials and extensive experience working with the Board of Governors. In advance of taking the oath of office in 2014, a Washington Post blog dubbed Yellen “… perhaps the most qualified Fed chair in history” and that “if experience is your main criterion, Yellen is hard to beat.” In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Bloomberg Markets magazine named Yellen to its 50 Most Influential list, citing individuals who have “the ability to move markets or shape ideas and policies.”
In addition to Yellen’s work as chair of the Federal Reserve, she is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as president of the Western Economic Association, vice president of the American Economic Association and a fellow of the Yale Corporation. In 2012, Yellen was a Distinguished Fellow honoree of the American Economic Association.
Yellen began her career as a faculty member at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976. Her first work with the Federal Reserve soon followed, serving as an economist with its Board of Governors. She then returned to her scholarship, joining the faculty of the London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1980, she joined University of California at Berkeley where she is professor emerita and served as the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics.
In the 1990s, Yellen returned to the Federal Reserve System, serving as a member of the Board of Governors from 1994 to 1997. In the following two years, she chaired the CEA in the Clinton White House. At the same time, she also served as chair of the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Before returning to the Board of Governors in 2010, Yellen served as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, beginning with an appointment in 2004.
In 1967, Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics, and went on to earn her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971; she graduated as the only woman in her class. Yellen also received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000.
In her research, Yellen has frequently collaborated with her husband, Dr. George A. Akerlof, a Nobel-prize winning economist who recently joined the faculty of Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and is the Daniel E. Koshland Sr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics at Berkeley. Yellen’s brother, Hobart alumnus Dr. John E. Yellen ’64, serves as program director for archaeology at the National Science Foundation and is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.
At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind. It is named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree. Blackwell earned her degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College, a precursor of Hobart College. HWS confers the Elizabeth Blackwell Award whenever a candidate of sufficient stature and appropriate qualifications is identified.
Yellen joins the ranks of more than three dozen esteemed Blackwell Award recipients who have achieved at the highest levels and broken down barriers across their respective fields and pursuits.
The first award was given in 1958; it was presented most recently in 2013 when The Most Reverend Doctor Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S. and first woman to head one of the Anglican Communion’s national churches, was honored as the 39th recipient. Other notable recipients include creator of the Special Olympics Eunice Kennedy Shriver; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, professional tennis legend Billie Jean King and anthropologist and author Margaret Mead.