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updated: 1/9/2014 2:21 PM

Nobel Prize-winning economics professor dies

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  • Dale Mortensen, a Nobel laureate and longtime professor of economics at Northwestern University, died Thursday at the age of 74.

      Dale Mortensen, a Nobel laureate and longtime professor of economics at Northwestern University, died Thursday at the age of 74.
    Courtesy of Northwestern Universit

 
Associated Press

Nobel laureate and longtime Northwestern University economics professor Dale Mortensen has died.

Mortensen shared the Nobel economics prize with two other Americans in 2010 for their work explaining how unemployment can remain high despite a large number of job openings.

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Mortensen died Thursday at his home in Wilmette, said his personal assistant and close family friend, Sue Triforo. He was 74.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro paid tribute to Mortensen, saying "his groundbreaking work is especially relevant to policymakers attempting to address unemployment today."

Besides his pioneering approaches to investigating the labor market, Mortensen had a way of breaking down complex economic ideas into terms anyone could relate to.

He even quoted the late Chicago author and Pulitzer Prize winner Studs Terkel while thanking the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation.

"Work was a search, sometimes successful, sometimes not, for daily meaning as well as daily bread," Mortensen said, quoting Terkel, who was known for recording the stories of ordinary Americans.

Mortensen was away teaching in Aarhus, Denmark, when he found out he won the prize. When delivering the news to his wife on the phone he said simply, "I won."

Such understatement and humility was a prominent characteristic, according to Triforo.

"The words really fail me at the moment because the grief is overwhelming, but he was a remarkable, humble, brilliant mind and man is all I can say," she said.

Mortensen was born in Enterprise, Ore. He had been at Northwestern since 1965. He also was an accomplished musician.

Survivors include his wife, Beverly, their son and two daughters, and eight grandchildren.

A public memorial will be announced later.

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