Norman Maclean Faculty Award to go to Fitch, Sjaastad
Two emeritus professors at the University will receive the Norman Maclean Faculty Award, given by the Alumni Association, at the annual Alumni Convocation on Saturday, June 7 during Alumni Weekend. Frank Fitch (M.D.,’53, S.M.,’57, Ph.D.,’60), the Albert D. Lasker Professor Emeritus in Pathology and the Ben May Institute, and Larry Sjaastad (A.B.,’57, A.M.,’58, Ph.D.,’61), Professor Emeritus in Economics and the College, are this year’s recipients.
The awards were first given in 1997 and are named for Norman Maclean (Ph.D.,’40), who taught English at the University for 40 years. The Maclean Faculty Awards recognize emeritus or very senior faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and student life on campus.
An internationally recognized cellular immunologist, Fitch has been a member of the Chicago faculty since 1957. He is credited with building the Ben May Institute into the highly regarded institution it is today. He also has served as the editor in chief of the Journal of Immunology and president of the American Association of Immunologists.
As a teacher of pathology, Fitch has been voted a favorite faculty member by many graduating classes. He has served as an indispensable mentor to dozens of students and a valued teacher to hundreds more. His students report that he encouraged them to think creatively and independently but always stressed rigor in their design of experiments and interpretation of data. His mentoring did not stop once his students earned their doctorates; he is known for supporting the work of former students and advising them throughout their careers.
One of Fitch’s students summed up their relationship by saying: “How has Frank Fitch been a teacher and mentor to me? By always being there; by providing first the example of how to conduct oneself honorably as a physician/scientist, and then by providing much-needed support and counsel to persons around him; by applauding success and consoling the many failures; and by allowing the relationship to mature and deepen over the years.”
Sjaastad joined the Chicago faculty in 1962. He attended the College for his undergraduate studies and went on to receive his Ph.D. in economics from Chicago. He developed his doctoral thesis into a tremendously influential article, “The Costs and Returns of Human Migration,” which remains widely cited today. Sjaastad also has conducted research on trade policy and exchange rates.
In addition to his far-reaching scholarship, Sjaastad is renowned for his uncommon abilities as a teacher. One former student cites his “calm manner…gift of exposition and breadth of knowledge of the subject matter,” a sentiment echoed by many alumni who studied under Sjaastad’s instruction.
During his 42-year teaching career, Sjaastad supervised 139 doctoral dissertations and was a vital source of guidance and support for countless students. Known for his ability to present complex economic theory in a clear, accessible manner, Sjaastad set an example for excellence in teaching.
Sjaastad also took a special interest in introducing Chicago economics to foreign nations. He worked closely with many international students and spent several academic years as a visiting scholar in countries across Latin America, Australia, Europe and Asia.
When Sjaastad retired from active faculty service in 2004, he was presented with a work titled, “The Larry Sjaastad Letters,” which included expressions of gratitude and well wishes from former students, colleagues and friends.
One former student eloquently summed up Sjaastad’s impact by urging him to “stick around because we are used to counting on you.”