In Memoriam: Rebecca Margaret Blank, 1955-2023

Rebecca M. Blank, an economist and educator who served in high-level U.S. government and academic positions and, for nine years, as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, died of cancer on February 17 in Wisconsin. She was 67 years old.

In October 2021, Northwestern University announced that Dr. Blank had been selected to serve as the seventeenth president of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Last summer, Dr. Blank announced that she would be unable to serve as the first woman president of the highly ranked university due to the fact that she has been diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Blank became chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. She had been serving as acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Dr. Blank joined the Department of Commerce in 2009 as undersecretary for economic affairs. Previously, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

From 1999 to 2007, Dr. Blank was the dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. From 1989 to 1999, she served on the faculty of the economics department at Northwestern University. She also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. An internationally renowned economist, Dr. Blank was a well-known researcher on poverty and the low-income labor market.

A native of Columbia, Missouri, Dr. Blank was a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she majored in economics. She earned a Ph.D. in economics at MIT.

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