Rebecca Blank, former Northwestern President-elect, dies at 67


Photo courtesy of Shane Collins

Rebecca Blank. Blank was the second woman tenured in Northwestern’s economics department.

Pavan Acharya, Campus Editor

Former University President-elect Rebecca Blank died at age 67 on Feb. 17, the University announced Saturday.

Blank, who served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2013 through May 2022, was selected to succeed Morton Schapiro as university president in October 2021. However, last July, she announced she would step down from the role after she had been diagnosed with cancer. 

“We are deeply saddened by Becky’s passing,” Peter Barris, chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, said in a University press release. “Becky was a distinguished leader, and it was a privilege to work with her during the presidential transition before she had to withdraw.”

Blank was the second woman tenured in NU’s economics department, serving as a faculty member from 1989 to 1999. She also served in three U.S. presidential administrations, and was acting secretary of commerce and deputy secretary of commerce under former President Barack Obama.

As an economist, Blank published research on issues of poverty and inequality. She was recognized as a 2021 Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association for work in research and policy, according to the release.

“She was one of the most brilliant, brave, accomplished people I know,” Kellogg Prof. Therese McGuire, a friend of Blank, said in the release. “I will miss her dearly. Her loss is a huge personal loss and a huge loss for the profession.”

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