Christensen Gift Funds UW-Madison Economics Chair

MADISON – Laurits (Lau) Christensen, chairman of the economic and engineering consulting firm Christensen Associates of Madison, has established a named faculty chair in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Economics.

Christensen, who served on the UW-Madison economics faculty for 20 years, says he made the gift to allow the recruitment and retention of top-flight professors crucial to success.

“I have a desire to help the department maintain the excellence it has achieved,” says Christensen, who taught economics at UW-Madison from 1967-87. “I came to the University as a 26-year-old, newly minted PhD from Berkeley. Research support from the University was instrumental in my coming to Wisconsin and allowing me to rapidly develop my research program and my career. I am pleased that I am now able to give back to the University and the state of Wisconsin.”

Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin praised Christensen’s contribution as both generous and strategically important to the University’s future. “Endowed faculty chairs of this kind are becoming increasingly important to the University in maintaining both the quality and breadth of our world-class faculty,” she says.

“Lau has been very generous to our department by supporting some of our best graduate students to date,” says Professor Ananth Seshadri, chair of the department. “This gift will greatly enhance our ability to compete for the very best economics faculty. It will be a great honor to hold the Christensen Professorship, a reflection of his extraordinary achievements.”

At its peak, the economics department, in the College of Letters and Science, had 50 faculty members. That number is 26 now. “A good deal of that additional faculty presence was the result of research money that was available then,” Christensen says. “Research money was easier to come by in my day.”

Christensen says his gift’s main goal is finding and keeping leaders in the profession. “It’s so important to have a faculty held in high regard,” he says.

Christensen Associates, a full-service economic and engineering consulting firm, specializes in providing creative and timely solutions in response to the complex business problems found in both regulated and unregulated markets. Its team of economists, engineers, programmers and market research specialists has been assisting clients both nationally and internationally for more than 30 years.

Christensen, a Green Bay native who earned his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, earlier made gifts to establish the Christensen Award, given to a graduate student and faculty member working together in the department. “The objective was to encourage graduate students and faculty members to begin working together on research earlier than they might otherwise. That was really important in my career, getting started early on research with my faculty mentor at Berkeley.”