"A special and extremely committed person" - farewell lecture by development economist Prof. Stephan Klasen, Ph.D.
After his farewell lecture on 16 November 2019 in the Alfred-Hessel-Saal of the Paulinerkirche, more than 250 guests from all over the world honoured Prof. Dr. h.c. Stephan Klasen, Ph.D. with long-lasting applause. Stephan Klasen has been Professor of Development Economics since 2003. He conducts research on issues of poverty, inequality, the environment and gender in developing countries. Born in 1966, he retires prematurely because he has been suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since 2015 and is severely restricted in language and mobility.
In their speeches, Prof. Dr. Hiltraud Casper-Hehne, Vice-President for International Affairs at the University of Göttingen, and Prof. Dr. Thomas Kneib, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, emphasized, among other things, Klasens' great merits for Göttingen's development economy. "You are a special and extremely committed person," emphasised Prof. Casper-Hehne in her speech.
Stephan Klasen has significantly expanded development economics in Göttingen and made interdisciplinary research in this field possible by establishing diverse and inter-faculty cooperation and networks. Today, Göttingen is Germany's largest and most internationally visible location for developing country research. Together with scientists from agricultural economics and stochastics, he founded for example the Courant Research Center "Poverty, Equity, and Growth in Developing and Transition Countries" with funds from the second round of the Excellence Initiative of 2007. In addition, he works closely with agricultural economists in the Collaborative Research Centre "Ecological and socio-economic functions of tropical lowland rainforest transformation systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)" funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and in the DFG Research Training Group "Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems - Global Food". Together with researchers from the University of Hanover, Stephan Klasen has also acquired the DFG Research Training Group "Globalization and Development". And these are just a few examples of his diverse research activities.
In his speech, Prof. Dr. Andrea Cornia, development economist at the Department of Economics and Management at the University of Florence, spoke about Prof. Klasen's academic career and research focus. For example, he paid particular tribute to Klasen for publishing many scientific papers together with young scientists: "He has the ability to arouse interest in development economics research. This is how you create a school," he said with reference to the so-called "Göttingen Schule" (Göttingen School). Professor Klasen's doctoral students coined this term at a symposium on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
The "Göttingen Schule" and the Stephan Klasen Fellowship
Prof. Dr. Isabel Günther then spoke of this "Göttingen Schule". The former research assistant and doctoral student of Stephan Klasen is now Professor of Development Economics and Director of the NADEL - Center for Development and Cooperation at ETH Zurich. She described Klasen as an "inspiring teacher" who always accompanied and supported his doctoral students very individually. Stephan Klasen has supervised a total of 76 doctorates as a first supervisor. In addition, he created one of the first junior professorships at the Faculty of Business and Economics. His current research assistants thanked Prof. Klasen with a scientific contribution of a special kind: in the run-up to the event, they had interviewed the participants with the help of a questionnaire on various aspects, from personal details such as their own zodiac sign to joint visits to the cafeteria with Stephan Klasen, and then evaluated these data in a humorous manner and summarised them in a paper.
As a sign of his great commitment to young scientists, the Development Economics Professorships of the Faculty, together with the Executive Board of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the Faculty of Business and Economics, have also launched the "Stephan Klasen Fellowship". Beginning 2021, two postdoctoral students will be invited to Göttingen for one year each for academic exchange.
Video recording of the event:
Finally, Luke Barr, Sean Gullette, Lukas and Nicolas Klasen as well as Albert Wenger read the text of Prof. Klasen's farewell lecture, which provided a review of his academic career and his work in research, teaching and political consulting.
The event was accompanied by music by Amy and Henning Bloech.
Stephan Klasen was Director of the Ibero-America Institute for Economic Research and Coordinator of the Research Centre "Poverty, Inequality, and Growth in Developing Countries" at the University of Göttingen. He studied at Harvard University where he received his doctorate in 1994. Following positions at the World Bank in Washington and South Africa, Kings College in Cambridge and the University of Munich, he had held the Chair of Development Economics at the University of Göttingen since 2003. He was a member of the UN Committee on Development Policy and was President of the European Development Research Network. As a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he contributed to the 5th Assessment Report 2014. He died on October 27, 2020, at the age of 54 after a long and severe illness.