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Paul A. Volcker
Doctor of Laws
For decades, Paul Volcker has been one of the nation’s most prominent economists. He is perhaps best known for having served as chairman of the Federal Reserve under both President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan. More recently, from February 2009 until January of this year, he chaired President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Volcker earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a master’s degree in political economy from Harvard before attending the London School of Economics as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Fellow. Between 1952 and 1979, he held various positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Chase Manhattan Bank and the United States Treasury Department. He was also a founding member of the Trilateral Commission—dedicated to fostering cooperation between the U.S., Europe and Japan—and a senior fellow in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
As chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987, Volcker is credited with ending the country’s stagflation crisis. Since leaving the Fed, he has chaired the New York investment banking firm J. Rothschild, Wolfensohn & Co.; led a commission that brought about a $1.25 billion settlement for the families of Holocaust victims whose money was being held in Swiss banks; directed the United Nations Association of the United States of America; undertaken an investigation into corruption in the U.N.’s Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program; chaired the Group of Thirty; proposed more effective anti-corruption policies for World Bank programs; and co-authored three books.
As an advisor to President Obama during the recent financial crisis, Volcker has called for greater government regulation of the nation’s banks. He has given his name to the Volcker Rule, a plan, endorsed by Obama and five former Secretaries of the Treasury in 2010 and approved by the Federal Reserve this year, to restrict banks from engaging in proprietary trading that is not at the behest of their clients. The plan is intended to reduce the risk of another crisis.
Listen to Conversations with Honored Guests, talks by honorary degree recipients.