Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke will speak at this year’s Baccalaureate ceremony on June 2, the University announced Tuesday morning.
Bernanke joined the Princeton faculty in 1985 and chaired the economics department from 1996 to 2002. During his time as department chair, he established the Bendheim Center for Finance, which offers the undergraduate finance certificate, in 1998.
In 2002, Bernanke resigned his position at the University after joining the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, which he has chaired since 2006.
University President Shirley Tilghman selected Bernanke after consulting with representatives from the Class of 2013, including class president Zach Beecher ’13.
Beecher explained that Bernanke was chosen as part of a process that began during the fall semester, when the senior class council sent out a survey requesting suggestions for the Baccalaureate speaker. A quarter of the class responded to that survey, Beecher said.
After meetings with the Offices of the Dean of the Chapel, Undergraduate Students and the President, the committee recommended Bernanke as this year’s speaker.
“If you consider everything that he’s done, he really does exemplify what we hope — what I hope — every one of our graduates will go on to do: to live ‘in the nation’s service and the service of all nations,’ ” Beecher said.
While acknowledging the controversy surrounding some of Bernanke’s policies, Beecher said he believed Bernanke would make an excellent speaker, particularly for a Baccalaureate address.
“He’s definitely someone that we think we can all benefit from hearing,” he said. “Sure, his decisions were divisive. But many, many people credit his decision making and, especially, his calm demeanor in 2009, with the government’s success in arresting the financial deterioration that we were in.”
Economics professor Alan Blinder ’67, a close friend of Bernanke’s and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, said he was thrilled by the announcement.
“This is a fantastically good idea,” he said. “Ben Bernanke is a living, breathing example of how a tremendous raw intellect can become an outstanding scholar and public servant.”
“The only problem is that he got his education at Harvard,” Blinder said, joking.
Bernanke’s second term as Federal Reserve chairman ends in 2014, while his tenure as a Board member will last until 2020.
When asked whether Bernanke would consider returning to the University after leaving Washington, Blinder said he couldn’t rule out the possibility.
“When a federal reserve chairman steps down, he’s going to have plenty of offers. We’re going to be one of many schools competing for his services,” Blinder said. “But if he expects to come back to University life, I’d expect it to be here.”
The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. in the University Chapel. As per tradition, seating will be limited to the senior class and members of the faculty procession. Up to two family members of each graduating student will be permitted to watch the speech live via telecast.
Financial journalist and author Michael Lewis ‘82 delivered last year’s Baccalaureate address.
Bernanke could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He spent the day at Capitol Hill testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, where he defended the federal stimulus program.