Distinguished finance professor garners annual honor as “most influential” on alumni careers; ceremony part of May 4-6 Reunion Weekend
5/8/2007 - Musician, teacher — he has even been knighted in his native Portugal.
Sergio Rebelo practically exemplifies the Platonic ideal of what an outstanding professor should be, which may be why Kellogg graduates have named him the 2007 Alumni Professor of the Year.
The award has been bestowed annually since 1988 on a Kellogg School professor deemed most influential on the professional lives of alumni returning for Reunion each spring.
“Making the connection between great research and teaching is what our faculty is all about,” said Roger “Whit” Shepard, associate dean and director of development and alumni relations, as he introduced Rebelo during a May 5 ceremony at Reunion.
Professional distinctions are nothing new for Rebelo, the Kellogg School Tokai Bank Distinguished Professor of International Finance who joined Kellogg in 1988. But now he becomes part of an elite group of Kellogg professors designated as being among the most influential for the school’s graduates.
Upon accepting the award, Rebelo said, “There are so many great teachers in this school, so to be acknowledged by you is a great honor.”
An expert in macroeconomics and international finance who has studied the cause of business cycles, exchange rate devaluations and speculation episodes, Rebelo has earned distinctions for his research, including National Science Foundation grants and an Olin Fellowship. But in explaining the importance of teaching, he referred to the Greek philosopher Plato.
“Not to compare us,” said Rebelo, “but when Plato was an old man and frail, his servant asked him why he kept teaching. Plato explained that he was able to learn from his masters and considered himself really lucky to have time to think about remaining problems.”
Plato’s students challenged him and gave him the intellectual resources to advance his thinking. “‘I am a repository of knowledge and I must pass this on,’” said Rebelo, paraphrasing the philosopher.
Plato, by this time blind, retained this conviction even when his servant informed him that only a single student had been attending the teacher’s classes. Undaunted, Plato continued his educational mission, believing that a single student was just as important as a room full of scholars.
It turned out that his solitary student was Aristotle.
While Rebelo acknowledged that there are few obvious connections between ancient Greek philosophy and modern management, he noted that, like Plato, Kellogg scholars always try to extend the boundaries of their disciplines.
“We hire great young professors to research and generate real knowledge to advance the field,” said Rebelo, former chair of the Finance Department. “We give them lots of time … so they can contribute to advancing knowledge.”
In addition to his economics research and teaching, Rebelo pursues music (a younger brother, Pedro, is a classical composer). The Kellogg professor has played guitar since childhood and nearly became a professional musician, until college introduced him to economic models that he found sufficiently compelling to alter his career path. He went on to earn his doctorate in economics from the University of Rochester in 1989.
Since then, he has been a member of the editorial board of various journals, including the American Economic Review, the European Economic Review, and the Journal of Monetary Economics. He is also a fellow of the Econometric Society, the National Bureau of Economic Research and of the Center for Economic Policy Research. Rebelo has served as a consultant to The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the European Central Bank, the McKinsey Global Institute, and other organizations. In 2006, Rebelo received a knighthood for service to his home country of Portugal.
Past recipients of the Alumni Professor of the Year Award have included some of the Kellogg School’s most prominent teachers, such as David Besanko, Sunil Chopra, Alice Tybout, Robert Magee, Dipak C. Jain, Donald P. Jacobs and Philip Kotler, among others. To be eligible for the award, a professor must have served on the Kellogg School faculty for at least 15 years.