Current Events

Al Roth wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Alvin Roth

Alvin Roth receiving a congratulatory phone call Monday morning. Image courtesy Stanford University News.

Today the Nobel committee awarded their prize in economics to my old friend and colleague, Al Roth. It’s a wonderful day. Al is not only a brilliant scholar and a truly worthy winner of this incredible award, he’s also a wonderful person – a loving husband, a dedicated Dad, an amazing adviser, and a great friend to many, many people.

Al and I first met in the fall of 1974, when we were both new assistant professors at the business school at the University of Illinois. We were both freshly minted PhDs – Al from Stanford, me from Purdue. I was a young professor at the age of 25 – Al was only 22.

Al never graduated from high school; he quit, I think, because of the boredom. Soon after a family friend told him that Columbia had a program that admitted people to the University without a high school degree. Al passed all of their requirements – no problem there – and enrolled at the age of 16. He graduated at 19, enrolled in the PhD program at Stanford at 19, and finished his dissertation in three years. Yes, he is a very smart guy.

As young as he was, he grew a beard to make himself look older when he went on the job market. He also was a bit informal. In fact, word spread that someone went to all of his interviews that year wearing a sweater rather than a suit. That was Al.

After arriving at Illinois, two of our senior colleagues threw us together, thinking that we might have a lot to talk about since both of our dissertations investigated coalition formation – Al from the theoretical side, me from the empirical. This connection was the start of a long-running collaboration that resulted in 12 joint publications. We worked on bargaining and prisoners’ dilemma games as well as coalition formation. Al got tenure at the age of 25, was promoted to Full Professor at 27, and moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1982 for a Chaired Professorship that was a direct line item on the University budget. At Pitt Al helped to build a dynamic, productive economics department. He was then lured to Harvard and has recently moved back to Stanford.

Al met his wife Emilie at Illinois. She was a PhD student in the Psychology Department. While I might have pushed Al toward experiments, Emilie gave him incredible insights from the world of psychology. She has also been an incredible partner for over 30 years. They also have two wonderful sons, Aaron and Ben.

Al is a restless, adventurous soul. Three random (and maybe tepid) examples: (1) He often knocked on my door at Illinois when he needed a break from work, tempted by the thought of ice cream rather than working right through the day. (2) After he turned 25 he also worried that, as a mathematician, he might not have any more great ideas; it’s great to see how wrong he was. And (3), his younger son Ben’s prowess in ping pong led Al to be an avid and accomplished player himself at a pretty advanced age.

I always claimed that I taught Al how to do an experiment. Truth be told, I didn’t have to tell him much. After we had worked together for a while, I often told him that someday he would do an experiment on his own; he always replied by saying that someday I would prove a theorem on my own. We both actually did that.

This is a wonderful day for Al, his family, and all of his friends, as well as for game theory and experimental economics. Kudos to Al, and to the Nobel folks for recognizing him!



2 thoughts on “Al Roth wins Nobel Prize in Economics

  1. This was one of the sweetest, most heart-felt blog posts about Roth’s prize, his achievements and personality. Thank you!

    Posted by Ivan | November 9, 2012, 4:16 am


  1. Pingback: A prize for priceless markets « Expertly Wrapped - October 17, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Do Nothing by J. Keith Murnighan

“Do Nothing! will stand out as among the most imaginative, fun, and useful leadership books ever published. Murnighan uses rigorous research to provide detailed advice that will help leaders do their jobs better, develop more adept and committed followers, and to suffer from less stress and overwork. Even though most business books present new wine in old bottles, Do Nothing! is the rare book that provides a refreshing perspective and tangible advice that isn’t available anyplace else.”

Robert I. Sutton, Author of THE NO ASSHOLE RULE: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

Order a copy today:

Pre-Order from Amazon
Order from Barnes & Noble

Do Nothing! is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese versions.
Foreign Language Book Covers

Kellogg Faculty Blogs
Kellogg School of Management
Exec Sense Webinar featuring Keith Murnighan
%d bloggers like this: