The Yale School of Management has named an endowed chair in economics for Sharon Oster, the school’s former dean and the Frederic D. Wolfe Professor Emerita of Management and Entrepreneurship. Oster retired this spring after teaching at Yale for more than four decades, including 36 years at SOM.
The Sharon Oster Professorship was supported by a generous gift from a group of Yale College and Yale SOM alumni, faculty colleagues, and members of Yale SOM advisory boards.
The donors were led by an anonymous Yale College alumnus, who credits Oster with sparking his own academic career.
“It was your Econ 150 course that convinced me to major in economics, and having you as a senior thesis advisor and working for you as a research assistant convinced me to go on to graduate school,” he wrote in a letter to Oster several years ago. “By now you must know that you have affected hundreds of Yale undergraduates in much the same way, and a large measure of their success is attributable to you.”
Oster has had an extraordinary impact as a scholar, teacher, and dean, the anonymous donor said recently: “In addition to being a first-rate scholar who has blazed new trails in several research areas. Sharon is also an award-winning teacher whose beautifully crafted lectures are as inspiring as they are educational, and she has educated several generations of students who have gone on to many successful careers in their own right, and across academia and the public and private sectors. Finally, Sharon has served with great distinction in several leadership positions at SOM, including the deanship, and has helped shape SOM into a truly distinctive business school that attracts top students from around the world.”
The donor added that he was pleased to be able to help celebrate Oster as she retired.
“Sharon played a central role in preparing me for my career and I wanted to be part of Yale’s initiative to honor her extraordinary legacy so that all future generations of Yale students, faculty, and staff will remember her. She epitomizes the very best of Yale and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to support this well-deserved recognition.”
Richard C. Levin, the former president of Yale and a colleague of Oster’s in the Yale economics department, helped lead the effort to raise funds to honor Oster.
“This permanent recognition ensures that Sharon’s accomplishments—as a legendary teacher and colleague, and as the first woman to serve as our dean—will never be forgotten,” Levin said. “For generations of future students and scholars, the Sharon Oster Professorship will be—as Sharon herself has been for us—an inspiration.”
One of the Yale SOM alumni who contributed to the fund was Sandra Urie ’85, the former CEO and chairman of Cambridge Associates. She said, “From the moment Sharon Oster started teaching that first class at SOM, I was hooked. She is passionate about her field and she is equally passionate about introducing others to the field and helping them use the framework of economics as a lens to analyze a wide range of problems. Her enthusiasm in the classroom is infectious and her intellectual curiosity is inspiring. She was a great role model to the women in our class and cared a lot about making it clear that gender is not a barrier to high achievement in economics and highly quantitative analytical pursuits.”
Another anonymous donor, who had been a student of Oster’s at Yale SOM and now works in Shanghai, commented: “Sharon helped me understand that microeconomics is a fundamentally intellectual way of viewing the world, and that inner strength is a defining characteristic of being a graceful businesswoman. This has been critical to my work doing investment in China, and to my life over the years since graduation. I am thrilled to be among the donors that made this professorship possible.”
Oster arrived at Yale SOM in 1982, after teaching in the Yale economics department for eight years. A legendary teacher of microeconomics, competitive strategy, and nonprofit strategy, she was known as a masterful storyteller and an exacting cold-caller. Her scholarship includes the books Modern Competitive Analysis and Strategic Management for Nonprofit Organizations; she also co-authored the standard textbook Principles of Economics with Karl Case and her husband Ray Fair, the John M. Musser Professor of Economics.
Yale SOM’s first woman tenured faculty member, Oster mentored generations of women students and faculty colleagues. In 2008, after the unexpected departure of Dean Joel Podolny, she was named dean. Over the next three years, she shepherded the school through the worldwide financial crisis and raised funds for Edward P. Evans Hall, the school’s new campus.
Gifts in honor of Sharon Oster may be made to the Yale SOM Alumni Fund.