This week, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he will nominate Janet Yellen, former chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and recipient of the 2015 Elizabeth Blackwell Award, as the 78th United States Secretary of the Treasury. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen, who was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, would also be the first woman to lead the Treasury.
Yellen is the 40th esteemed recipient of the Blackwell Award, joining the dozens of other women who have achieved at the highest levels and broken down barriers across their respective fields and pursuits, including creator of the Special Olympics Eunice Kennedy Shriver; Founder of the Green Belt Movement Dr. Wangari Maathai Sc.D.’94, P’94, P’96; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; and author Margaret Mead.
An expert on economic policy and macroeconomics specializing in the causes, mechanisms and implications of unemployment, Yellen also served 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. She began a 14-year appointment with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors in 2010, 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. More background on Yellen can be found here.
At HWS, 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. In recognition of Blackwell’s 200th birthday on Feb. 3, 2021, HWS will host a series of events in her honor (details forthcoming).
Yellen was presented with the 2015 award in Washington D.C., where she celebrated with members of the HWS community, including her brother, Dr. John E. Yellen ’64, program director for archaeology at the National Science Foundation, and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.