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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of Economics



History of the Department

David Kinley

Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign owes its beginnings and early development to David Kinley, a man clearly on the fast-track. Born in Dundee, Scotland, August 2, 1861, Kinley came to the United States at the age of 11. He attended high school in Massachusetts and earned a B.A. degree from Yale in 1884. After having served as a principal of a high school in Massachusetts, Kinley went to Johns Hopkins in 1890, where he studied with Richard T. Ely and Woodrow Wilson. Kinley accompanied Ely to the University of Wisconsin in 1892 and received the first Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1893. Degrees in hand, Kinley traveled south to Champaign-Urbana, where he was appointed Assistant Professor of Economics. One year later, he was promoted to Professor of Economics, and as the ranking instructor, founded the Department of Economics in 1895.

Kinley held the position of Professor of Economics and Dean of the College of Literature and Arts until 1906. In addition to his duties as Dean and Professor of Economics, Kinley taught eight undergraduate courses in 1894-95. In the next year, he taught eight undergraduate classes again, plus one graduate class, and in the following year he added a ninth undergraduate course.

The School of Commerce was founded in 1902 with Kinley as its Director. Kinley sought to include both political science and industrial economics in the new School, but this was opposed by the University Senate. A compromise was reached leaving political science in the College of Literature and Arts, and moving industrial economics to the new School of Commerce.

In 1906, Kinley was appointed Dean of the Graduate School. He remained the Director of courses in the School of Commerce (or Commerce School as it was called on Campus), but he gave up the Deanship of the College of Literature and Arts. Kinley was Dean of the Graduate School for eight years, thereafter becoming Vice President of the University in 1914. He was Acting President of the University 1919-1920, and President from 1920 until 1930.

At the strong urging of Kinley, the University Senate approved the formation of the College of Commerce and Business Administration in June, 1914, and the Board of Trustees followed with their approval on April 27, 1915. The College was housed in the new Commerce building, dedicated in 1913, and built at a cost of about $100,000. This building is now the East half of the Administration Building. The Commerce Building was constructed mainly in 1912, and occupied in the Spring of 1913.

David Kinley was the 15th President of the American Economics Association. His main interests in economics were money and banking and government regulation of business. His Presidential Address to the American Economics Association in 1913 was titled "Renewed Extension of Government Control of Economic Life." Among his books were The Independent Treasury of the United States (1893), Money (1904), and Government Control of Economic Life and Other Addresses (1936).

Kinley was active in state and local affairs, served on many boards and commissions, and traveled widely. He held honorary degrees from Illinois College (1908), the University of Wisconsin (1918), the University of Nebraska (1921), and Yale (1924). He died in 1944 at Urbana-Champaign at the age of eighty-three. David Kinley Hall on the Campus of the University of Illinois bears his name.

Although Kinley clearly dominated the early history of the Department and College, others such as Edmund Janes James and Ernest Ludlow Bogart contributed importantly to the development of economics at Illinois. James, an economist, was appointed President of the University of Illinois in 1904. He had been Dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and President of Northwestern University before coming to UI. James served as President of the University of Illinois until 1920 and was elected President of the American Economic Association in 1910. The title of his Presidential Address was "Economic Significance of a Comprehensive System of National Education."

Ernest L. Bogart, faculty member from 1909 to 1938 and long-time Department Head from 1920 to 1938, shared with Kinley and James the distinction of election as President of the American Economic Association. Bogart’s address to the association in 1931 was titled, "Pushing Back the Frontiers." Bogart’s fields, economic history and public finance, have been important areas of departmental strength over its history.

During Bogart’s term as Head, David Kinley, newly retired as President of the University, lost a fight over the formation of the Department of Agricultural Economics. In 1932, three members of the Economics Department joined several faculty in the College of Agriculture to form the new Agricultural Economics Department. Kinley opposed the fractionalization of the discipline of economics, but lost the argument because of what Emeritus Professor Frank Reiss says was the "availability of financial support, not a matter of principle." It appears that Kinley was beaten by his own profession, economics.

The period following WW II was one of rapid growth of the University. In 1947, 12,000 freshmen veterans enrolled at the University. President George Stoddard’s appointment in 1946 was celebrated with a 2-1/2 day bash, and ended seven years later in controversy. Stoddard appointed Howard Bowen, an economist, as Dean of the College of Commerce and Business Administration. Bowen sought to build the Department of Economics, both in size and reputation, by brining in a number of young economists. He appointed Everitt Hagen, who like Kinley held a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, to Head the Department. Philosophical, political, salary, and personality clashes followed, many aired in the local papers and in the Chicago Tribune.

Howard Bowen was ousted as Dean in 1950; Everitt Hagen and seven other economics professors resigned in 1951. President George Stoddard resigned in 1953 following a vote of no confidence by the University Board of Trustees, one of whose members was Red Grange, the famous University of Illinois football star. Other economists joined those who left, and in the end, sixteen tenured faculty resigned from the Department of Economics -- Leonid Hurwitz to Minnesota, Bob Eisner to Northwestern, Don Patinkin to the University of Jerusalem, Dorothy Brady to the University of Pennsylvania, Margaret Reid to the University of Chicago, Everitt Hagen and Franco Modigliani to MIT, Modigliani later to win a Nobel prize in economics, and others.

Later in the decade of the fifties, the Finance Department was formed out of the Economics Department. The Department of Finance was approved as a new department within the College of Commerce and Business Administration on April 18, 1957. The department was established by the transfer of faculty and courses from the Department of Economics.

J. Fred Bell was the Chairman of the Department during this period. It was thanks to Professor Bell that the University of Illinois Library came to acquire the Hollander Library, one of the finest economics collections in the country. The collection consists of 4,260 items, excluding portraits and personals, papers, and manuscripts. It contains works of Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Mill, and others. Among the more unusual, and valuable, items in the collection are a first draft manuscript of the autobiography of John Stuart Mill and the Tassie Medallion of the Adam Smith.

The 1960’s were a quieter era for the Department. The David Kinley lectures were initiated in 1965 through a bequest by Mrs. Janet Howell in memory of her father, who had been so instrumental in the founding of the Department. The lecture series was distinguished by Robert Fogel (1977), Joan Robinson (1979), Milton Friedman (1980), James Buchanan (1981), Alfred Kahn (1982), Gary S. Becker (1983), Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Shubik (1984), Franco Modigliani (1985), and many others.

The Master of Science in Policy Economics was started in 1982 largely through the efforts of Werner Baer. The purpose of the program is to offer training to administrators from central banks, government ministries and businesses, as well as faculty from universities who need additional training in economic analysis and quantitative techniques. Since its inception, the program has enrolled students from over 70 different countries, and has over 300 alumni. The first director of the program, Stanley Steinkamp, was instrumental in the program’s growth and success.

The modern history of the Department is still being written. Over the years, the Department has produced 821 Ph.D.’s and countless undergraduate and Master’s students. The Department’s Centennial in 1995 is a time for the Department to celebrate its past and look forward to its future. As it moves into its second one hundred years, the Department enjoys status as a top twenty-five economics department, as determined by the Gourman Report ranking of graduate departments. Five of its faculty serve as editors or co-editors of economics journals, one was elected Fellow of the Econometrics Society, and several have been recognized by the campus as among its best instructors. The Department is well positioned for its second hundred years.

View list of historical faculty and links to biosketches

By Jane H. Leuthold
This article appears in the Special Issue of the Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, "Illinois Centennial Essays on Economics", edited by Werner Baer and H.F. Williamson, Jr., Volume 36, 1996.