November 7, 2016

Multimillion-dollar gift will renovate floor of Krannert for growing economics center

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University alumnus Steven A. Webster and his wife, Linda M. Webster, have made a multimillion-dollar leadership gift to the Krannert School of Management. The pledge of $3 million will transform part of the third floor of the Krannert Building into the Webster Suite for the Purdue University Research Center in Economics, a fast-growing center in need of office and research space.

“With this gift the Websters have shown once again how much they care about our program,” said David Hummels, dean of Purdue’s Krannert School of Management. “For several years now, much of the third floor has been known as the Webster Suite for Undergraduate Programs. It’s fitting that an additional 7,300 square feet of that floor will now also bear their name, but as a space that will benefit faculty and graduate students.”

PURCE was started two and a half years ago by John Umbeck, a professor of economics, and Jack Barron, the Loeb Professor of Economics and a former department head of economics, with support from the current department head, Justin Tobias. The center’s mission is to conduct empirical research in economics that is focused on the role of incentives and markets in public policy.

PURCE has grown rapidly because of philanthropic giving that has supported the center’s economic research mission. After receiving initial seed money from faculty who personally donated to the new center, the initiative has received several million dollars in contributions over the last two years by more than half a dozen alumni and six foundations, including the Chicago Community Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation and the John W. Anderson Foundation.

Another contributor to the rapid rise of PURCE was a decision to make the long-established Purdue Center for Economic Education a division of PURCE. For many years in Indiana, PCEE has conducted research on the economic literacy of students, teachers and the general public. It also has provided courses and workshops for K-12 educators who want to better incorporate economic concepts into their classrooms, having provided training to 100 teachers in the greater Lafayette area in the last year.

“The momentum behind economics research of all types at Purdue is really thrilling,” Hummels said. “Purdue recently dedicated the seventh floor of Krannert as a space for agricultural economics, and now thanks to Steven and Linda’s generosity we will be able to do the same for the Krannert faculty who are affiliated with PURCE in order to give them a place to collaborate on their research and to mentor students.” 

Umbeck said he plans to make the center’s research accessible even to those who are not the typical readers of scholarly economic research publications.

“Our goal is to increase the economic literacy of the state and country,” Umbeck said. “Part of our mission will be to translate our research into unbiased data analysis that policymakers, educators and Americans can use to raise the level of discourse in our democracy.”

Tobias, the current department head, said the center will fill a critical national need.

“As much as any discipline, economics offers hope to address the many public policy challenges facing our nation,” he said. “PURCE will add an empirically rigorous voice to the study of policy issues and will help us grow our faculty presence and reputation in this area.”

Renovation began in early November and is expected to conclude in fall of 2017. 

Source: John Umbeck,

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