Press Conference for Nobel Prize Winner Bengt Holmström

Monday, October 10, 2016

As prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Kimberly.  Good morning, everyone!

I am delighted to tell you officially what you already know:

This morning, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Bengt Holmström, MIT’s Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

He and his colleague, Professor Oliver Hart of Harvard, share the award for their contributions to contract theory. Professor Hart taught at MIT from 1985 to 1993.

As the Academy noted in bestowing this honor, contracts “are essential to the functioning of modern societies,” and their research has been “invaluable in helping us understand real-life contracts and institutions, as well as the potential pitfalls when designing new contracts.”

Bengt Holmström joined the MIT faculty in 1994, and served as head of the Department of Economics from 2003 to 2006.

He is the fifth person to win the Nobel Prize in economic sciences while serving as a member of our faculty. With this achievement, he builds on the remarkable legacy of Professors Paul Samuelson, Franco Modigliani, Robert Solow and Peter Diamond, and the intellectual community here at MIT in which they thrived.

Among Professor Holmström’s many other distinctions, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences…the American Finance Association…and the Econometric Society, where he previously served as president. He is also a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which granted him today’s great honor.

I want to close on a personal note. When someone wins a Nobel Prize, the rest of us tend to place that person on a [PED-ehs-tuhl] pedestal…far above the level of normal human achievement.

So I would like the world to understand that MIT’s latest Nobel laureate is not only an extraordinary economic thinker.  Bengt Holmström is also an outstanding citizen of MIT… and a delightful human being.

I worked with Bengt directly when I served as MIT’s provost…including during the difficult period following the global financial crisis of 2008.

I found him, without exception, to be an absolute pleasure to work with. He is disarmingly honest…decent… forthcoming…collaborative…objective…open minded. You will not be surprised to learn that he is data driven! And you will be as delighted as I was to discover his world-class sense of humor.

Bengt also helped this electrical engineer to fully appreciate the jewel that is MIT’s Department of Economics. The department is known for its combination of outstanding human beings and superb economic talent…and Bengt stands as a perfect example of both.

On that note, please join me in welcoming MIT’s latest Nobel laureate, Professor Bengt Holmström!