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Thomas Jefferson Award winner Jeffrey Rosensweig has an ‘attitude of gratitude’
Jeffrey Rosensweig

Jefferson Award winner Jeffrey Rosensweig is a renowned scholar and sought-after mentor. One founder of the Emory Center for Ethics, he enlarged recognition of veterans and co-designed University Courses — an “intellectual commons” for faculty and students.

Despite his 34 years at Emory, Jeffrey Rosensweig got nervous when called to meet with the president and provost. He laughs recalling his certainty that it either would be “very good or very bad.” Like most chapters in his career, this one ended positively: he was named winner of the Thomas Jefferson Award, the university’s highest faculty/staff honor.

Suppressing any jitters as a sophomore at Yale University, Rosensweig talked his way into a seminar taught by James Tobin, who also welcomed Rosensweig into his research group. Tobin later earned the 1981 Nobel Prize in economics.

Tobin’s influence cemented Rosensweig’s desire to study economics. An outstanding teacher, Tobin wrote Rosensweig’s primary recommendation for the Marshall Scholarship, which led to study at Oxford University, where he earned a master’s in philosophy, politics, and economics. For his PhD, Rosensweig turned again to Tobin for a recommendation — Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ranked No. 1 in economics.

Grateful for the doors Tobin opened, Rosensweig wanted to reciprocate. Tobin’s answer: “Do it intergenerationally. I would love to see you become a professor and be a great mentor to students.”

Currently associate professor of finance at Goizueta Business School and director of the John Robson Program for Business, Public Policy, and Government, Rosensweig has fulfilled that wish and then some.

Following MIT, Rosensweig — a policy wonk who “wanted to serve at the center of our financial system” — joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta as a senior international economist.

Two years later, Yale invited him to be a visiting professor in its School of Management and the economics department, solidifying his deep love of teaching.

Dedication to students

As Rosensweig prepared to return to Atlanta, Emory made an offer in 1988.

“I have never looked back. I found my calling at Emory. It has never gotten old. There are always new students bringing their hopes and dreams,” says Rosensweig. “My concern is for every student as an individual. I have an attitude of gratitude, being able to work with these young people.”

Selected by the Wall Street Journal as one of 12 favorite professors in all executive MBA programs worldwide, Rosensweig also received the Distinguished Educator Award, voted by Emory’s executive MBA students, for four consecutive years.

Wanting to help make Emory “a destination of choice for veterans,” he helped establish the Goizueta Business School Veterans Association and the Emory Veterans Association, serving as their first and only faculty adviser.

He also was instrumental in inaugurating Emory’s annual Veteran’s Day commemoration. Though he jokes that he is on a mission to have student veterans stop calling him “sir,” Rosensweig seriously hopes that someday Emory will have its own ROTC.

“By Jeff’s dedication to our military community, he has enabled Emory veterans to successfully transition from serving our nation to pursuing business careers. No one does more for this group at Emory,” says Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ken Keen, associate dean of leadership development at Goizueta.

Rosensweig serves as both faculty adviser and career mentor for the Black MBA Association, which he co-founded. As a result of Rosensweig’s friendship with renowned investment banker Herb Allen, Allen annually hosts a private graduation dinner for Emory’s Black MBA students.

Nobel influences lead to noble pursuits

In addition to Tobin, Rosensweig was taught by two Nobel laureates at MIT — Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow. Access to them reinforced Rosensweig’s drive for excellence.

“I am a very competitive person on behalf of Emory. I always want to bring my insights, or my contacts, to help Emory achieve excellence,” says Rosensweig, whose expertise lies in global strategy, global economics and international finance.

He is the founding director of the Global Perspectives Program, which has attracted such luminaries as President Jimmy Carter, Ambassador Andrew Young and Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College.

His specialty is international tourism, which first came to his attention at MIT, when he was on a consulting team working for the Jamaican government. That interest branched into medical tourism, an important factor for Emory given its expertise in areas such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Rosensweig serves on the Advisory Committee of the Brain Health Center.

Building on Emory’s strengths

He takes particular pride in having been one of the founders of the Emory Center for Ethics and been part of the search committee that brought current director Paul Wolpe here. “Our explicit goal was to move from a regionally known ethics center to one that would make waves nationally. We did that,” he notes. Rosensweig remains involved as a senior faculty fellow and member of the advisory board.

“Most universities talk about breaking down silos. Few ever do,” observes Rosensweig. But he and Emory School of Law colleague Morgan Cloud did so in designing University Courses in 2011. They co-taught the first class, Methland, on the national reckoning taking place with methamphetamine addiction.

Cloud, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, notes: “Inspired by Jeff's advocacy for enhancing the ‘intellectual commons’ at Emory, we developed a proposal for a themed interdisciplinary course not only offered to all students but to be taught by scholars from multiple disciplines.” In spring semester, this popular tradition continued with two courses — one on the ethics of museums and the other on living through change as a result of the pandemic.  

Achievements beyond Emory

“Jeff has productive relationships with business, political and civic leaders in the Atlanta community and the world, making him a true brand ambassador of the university,” says Jagdish Sheth, the Charles H. Kellstadt Chaired Professor of Marketing at the business school.

It is no exaggeration to say that Rosensweig’s ringing phone could be a prime minister, a CEO or an Emory graduate seeking his counsel. And he makes equal time for all three.

One such business leader is Frank Blake, nonexecutive chair of the board of directors of Delta Airlines and former chair and CEO of The Home Depot. “There is a special satisfaction when an award perfectly suits the recipient. That is the case with Jeff and the Thomas Jefferson Award. He sets the bar for leadership in a space so critical for our society, the intersection of our intellectual and civic lives. His intellect is undoubted, but it is his impact on Atlanta, the state of Georgia and beyond that truly distinguishes him. He is respected and listened to by all,” says Blake.

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