Kenen produced landmark work in international trade, international money and the global financial system. In the words of Paul Krugman, Kenen’s “combination of analytical force and real-world acumen has made him one of the most influential teachers of his generation.”
Kenen played a huge role in shaping my own career. His was the first PhD course I took while at the Woodrow Wilson School, and his captivating lectures were a major reason I decided eventually to go for a PhD. His words to the class in the opening lecture of his trade course still rings vividly in my ears: “the difference between domestic and international trade is that the latter crosses sovereign boundaries.” In my own work, I am still grappling with the implications of this statement.
Early on, Kenen saw something in me and took me under his wings. He pushed hard behind the scenes for my admission to the Economics doctoral program at Princeton, and eventually succeeded despite apparently strong reservations on the part of some of his colleagues. (There seems to have been questions about my math skills…) He ensured financial support by hiring me as a RA. He made me co-author on the paper that the research led to, my first publication in a bona fide economics journal.
My doctoral work eventually moved away from his own research interests, but he kept close tabs on me and remained a member of my dissertation committee.
As I think back on my Princeton days, Kenen is at the center of some of the most vivid memories. How can I forget him chain-smoking through international economics seminars (yes, you could do that at the time) or imitating Haberler’s and Leontief’s thick accents (Austrian and Russian, respectively) on the occasion of Kenen’s own PhD orals at Harvard?
Kenen was one of the greats of the economics profession. But he was also a gracious and generous man who gave much to those around him.