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Waterloo Quality

Can you spare a Euro?

“Coming from a small country, open to trade, gave me a perspective on the international economy that people who live inside large economies don’t have.”

It’s not every day a Nobel Prize winner serenades banquet guests with a verse from Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as part of his acceptance speech. But Robert A. Mundell, born in Kingston, Ontario, is hardly your typical economist.

The former Waterloo professor, who came to the university to chair the economics department in 1972 and left in 1974 for Columbia University in New York, has been called a “visionary,” and “two decades ahead of everybody.” He’s also now touted as one of the fathers of the Euro, the foundations for which he was exploring while at Waterloo.

His idea of optimum currency areas is considered one of the most important developments in international economics since the U.S. dollar took centre stage. And for good reason. When the Euro was put into practice in 1999, it became the second most important currency in the world and helped Europe become a dominant market and trading partner. While at Waterloo, Mundell was one of the nine consultants to the commission that prepared a report in Brussels on European monetary integration. 

Mundell, a Companion of the Order of Canada who also received a Doctor of Laws degree in 2006 from Waterloo, is still a force on the world stage. He teaches, travels, and has been a respected economic advisor in China. Still, he credits his Canadian upbringing for giving him a viewpoint he might not have otherwise honed.

As he once told Maclean’s: “Coming from a small country, open to trade, gave me a perspective on the international economy that people who live inside large economies don’t have.”

> Economics department

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