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Alum Kathleen McGarry Named Thomas Muench Endowed Chair of Economics

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Kathleen McGarry has been named Thomas Muench Endowed Chair of Economics.

Renowned economist Kathleen McGarry will be joining the Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences as the Thomas Muench Endowed Chair of Economics beginning this summer. 

A proud Stony Brook University alumna, McGarry received a BS in mathematics with a double major in economics, as well as a PhD in economics, from Stony Brook. The endowed chair was established in the department in 2020 as part of a transformative gift from Marilyn Simons ’74, ‘84, PhD. 

McGarry currently serves as professor of economics at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Her research focuses on the well-being of the elderly with particular attention paid to the transfer of resources within families and issues surrounding the provision of long-term care.

“I’m very much looking forward to coming back to my alma mater,” McGarry said. “I’m excited about the new leadership at Stony Brook and thrilled to be part of its next chapter. I expect economics to play an important role in helping to advance the University’s mission.” 

Along with her successful research career, McGarry has focused her efforts on student success. Through her tenure at UCLA, which included roles as vice chair for Undergraduate Studies and department chair, McGarry helped lead her department’s efforts to build their undergraduate economics program and to launch a self-supporting Master of Quantitative Economics program. She looks forward to bringing her passion for teaching and inspiring students to SBU, while further increasing the visibility and academic reputation of the Department of Economics. 

“I love the idea of building something; that’s what intrigued me about coming back to Stony Brook — this opportunity to build something very special in economics,” McGarry said. “All the fundamentals are there. Plus, we are just outside New York City, which is, in many ways, the financial capital of the world, and presents exciting learning and employment opportunities to our students. Through Marilyn Simons’ gift, we have the momentum to build upon this great Department. I’m truly excited by the possibilities.”

Growing up on Long Island, Stony Brook was part of McGarry’s life for many years before her time as a student; her mother took graduate courses at SBU. “In coming back so many years later, it’s thrilling to see how beautiful the Stony Brook campus has become — it gives you a feeling that you just want to be here.” 

“Kathleen is exactly the candidate we need to lead this next phase of growth and collaboration within the Department of Economics,” said Marilyn Simons, co-president of the MJS Foundation, co-chair of the Simons Foundation, and founder and chair of Stony Brook’s Women’s Leadership Council. “I am delighted that she has chosen to return to her alma mater to lead the continued transformation of our thriving program in Economics.” 

“Kathleen has a demonstrated record of success that includes recruiting outstanding faculty, building academic programs and developing innovative international offerings.” — Maurie McInnis, Stony Brook University president

McGarry hopes to improve the diversity of the economics program at SBU. “One of my goals is to work with the Department to encourage more women and underrepresented minorities to enter the field, and that needs to start with our undergraduate program,” she said. “We then can work to establish a pathway for students to make the transition from a bachelor’s degree to a PhD.”

 A strong believer in public education, McGarry looks forward to bringing more real-world components to Stony Brook’s already-strong economics program, including adding a new course in financial literacy to help equip students with basic tools they need to make smart and important financial decisions. 

“Kathleen has a demonstrated record of success that includes recruiting outstanding faculty, building academic programs and developing innovative international offerings,” said Maurie McInnis, president of Stony Brook University. “With a student-focused vision that prioritizes real-world opportunities for learning, Kathleen recognizes Stony Brook’s close proximity to the diverse business and financial ecosystem of New York City, coupled with its designation as a flagship institution in New York State, further positions the University as a first-choice destination for students looking to excel in the field of economics. We are most grateful to Marilyn Simons for her visionary generosity in support of this chair and are pleased to welcome Kathleen back to the Stony Brook community.”

McGarry’s research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging, the Social Security Administration, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Brookdale Foundation and the Sloan Foundation. She was previously a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, and has served as senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

“I am enthusiastic about Dr. McGarry’s hire to lead our Department of Economics,” said Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook. “She brings a compelling combination of experiences as an alum of Stony Brook, a renowned scholar, and a highly effective department chair. Simply put, Kathleen understands what it takes to build and maintain a top department of economics and she will bring that knowledge and commitment to excellence in her leadership here at Stony Brook. Moreover, I am moved by her vision to promote access to underrepresented students in economics, which resonates with our core values at Stony Brook as a leader in social mobility for students.”

“I thank the search committee for their active engagement in the process, which was instrumental in bringing an alumna of such stature back to Stony Brook,” said Nicole S. Sampson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and distinguished professor of chemistry. “With Marilyn Simons’ support and the assistance of the faculty of the Department of Economics, Dr. McGarry will lead the Department of Economics into a new era.” 

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