University Celebrates Coase's 100th Birthday

Once-in-a-lifetime lunch
Amy Braverman Puma
University of Chicago Magazine
May 17, 2011

I took a spot in the back of the Quad Club solarium, leaving room for A-list guests closer to the luncheon's honoree, Nobel Prize–winning economist Ronald Coase. Still, in the end pretty much everyone who’d come to celebrate Coase’s 100th birthday was A-list, and my out-of-the-way table filled with notables including economist Allen Sanderson, University provost Thomas Rosenbaum, and, sneaking in just after the salad was served, 2007 Nobelist Roger Myerson.

Myerson was still pulling in his chair when economist and New York Times columnist Casey Mulligan shot him a question: “Roger, do you think we should be in Libya?” It took Myerson only a moment to collect his thoughts and respond that, from his perspective, Arab-League and UN approval for the no-fly zone made it a justifiable intervention.

Meanwhile, Sanderson was delighted to be sitting next to Rosenbaum, he told the physicist, because he had a burning question—about the physics of kids’ soccer. “At my granddaughter’s games,” Sanderson said, “whenever the goalie gets the ball, she throws it. Wouldn’t kicking be better?” Yes, Rosenbaum agreed: legs are stronger than arms, so kicking, although less accurate, would get the ball farther down the field.

Ten minutes before the luncheon was scheduled to end, I worried aloud that perhaps no one would speak and I’d have nothing to write about Coase. Myerson generously launched into stories about the Law School professor emeritus, who had turned 100 this past December but whose University celebration had been postponed until late March because it had been too cold for him to venture out. Myerson recalled how, after a 2001 dinner to honor then-incoming University President Don Randel, everyone had left but the Myersons and the Coases, who stayed and talked awhile. On the Myersons' way home, they agreed that, should they live into their 90s, they hoped to be as sharp and interesting as the Coases.