Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2009

Award-winning economist, Lars Peter Hansen, returns to USU.

When Lars Peter Hansen graduated from Logan High School he was told by a counselor that, based on his recent academic performance, he could expect to be a C+ student and, if he studied very, very hard, a B+ student.

“I would bring home report cards with double check marks by, ‘Does not respect authority,’” he said. “I was not a very inspired high school student.”

Hansen said his father and mother had both gone to USU. In fact, his father, R. Gaurth Hansen, was the provost at the time. Hansen decided to go to USU.

Lars Peter Hansen

“Several professors at Utah State University helped me reorient my thinking to career possibilities and intellectual pursuits,” Dr. Hansen said. “They started me on a path that has proven very challenging and rewarding.”

Apparently, there were a number of professors at USU who could see his potential. Dr. Hansen said Mike Windham, a mathematics professor, and Bartell Jensen, an economics professor, gave him valuable professional advice. He said that Doug Alder, a history professor, suggested Hansen always find ways to take advantage of his strengths and to do it in a unique way.

It would be an understatement to say that Dr. Hansen went beyond the expectations of those who thought him destined to be a C+ student.

After graduating with a dual degree in political science and mathematics in 1974, Dr. Hansen went on to attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where he earned his doctorate in economics. He started his academic career teaching at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Since 1981, Dr. Hansen has been on the faculty of the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics, where he served as director of graduate studies and as department chairman. He is the recipient of the 2006 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics from Northwestern University. He has also been recognized with the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching at the University of Chicago and was a co-winner of the Frisch Medal from the Econometric Society.

In the 1980s, Dr. Hansen became established as the leading contributor to the development and application of rigorous estimation and testing methods for financial data. His 1982 paper, “Generalized Methods of Moments” fundamentally altered the way that empirical research is done in finance and macroeconomics.
Dr. Hansen was honored in October with the 2008 CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) Group-MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute) Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications.

In January 2009, Dean Douglas D. Anderson presented him with a Professional Achievement Award during the Partners In Business Finance Seminar where he was the concluding speaker. There, the “trouble maker” spoke before an attentive audience of business professionals and students, giving an address entitled, “Financial Fragility and the Macroeconomy.”

“Several professors at Utah State University helped me reorient my thinking to career possibilities and intellectual pursuits. They started me on a path that has proven very challenging and rewarding.” —Dr. Lars Peter Hansen