The John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor in the American Economics System, James Dana, is scheduled to retire at the end of this year, adding to one of the largest turnovers of any at department at Lawrence.Dana first discovered Lawrence in 1961 while working on his Ph.D. at MIT, when Douglas Knight, the president of Lawrence, went to recruit him as a mathematical economist. “They were hard to come by, back then,” said Dana, “and that made me attractive to Lawrence.” Dana accepted the offer, and began his career at Lawrence as an instructor of economics. President Knight left Lawrence two years later, just after promoting Dana to Associate Professor.
When Dana first came to Lawrence, he did not expect to stay here. The job market of the time was so tight that he was getting job offers without interviews. Although originally Dana saw Lawrence as a “temporary place” where he could teach and work on his dissertation, he liked it here and decided that this was where he would pursue his career.
In addition to his responsibilities to the economics department, Dana is also credited with being the first director of the Computer Center, back when Lawrence had only one computer, kept in the basement of Main Hall. In fact, he was the only person on campus that knew how to use the technology, which cost Lawrence approximately $250,000. After working with the computer, Dana found that he needed 20K more RAM, which Lawrence purchased at $50,000. (The same amount of memory today costs a fraction of a cent.)
After six years at Lawrence, Dana received tenure under considerably different terms than those of today’s professors. The tenure committee of the time was far more casual than current tenure committees, which abide by the clearer criteria established in the early 1970s. “Fortunately, I avoided all that,” chuckled Dana.
During his 40 years of teaching at Lawrence, Dana has earned a reputation for teaching in a manner most conducive to learning and integrating the course material. Economics majors know that when they register for a Dana course, they look forward to a reliable method of teaching that has been honed with decades of experience. “I’ve taken more econ courses with Dana than with any other professor,” said Manisha Bhinge, junior math/economics major. “He’s the reason I became an economics major.”
Although Dana and his wife will be moving to their house in New Hampshire this summer, they plan to spend their winters here in Wisconsin. “When the people out there ask where we spend our winters…and I tell them, ‘Wisconsin,’ they think we’re crazy! But we like it here.”
The decision to winter in Appleton will benefit Lawrence (and economics students) as Dana will continue to teach corporate finance during the winter term. He enjoys teaching this course, as he enjoys teaching all of his courses, and it shows.