Alan and I first crossed paths 2008 in Labor Economics, a course he co-taught with Professor Orley Ashenfelter. Alan was always an enthusiastic lecturer, perhaps a bit more than the students. He once told me that he contemplated moving all his courses to 8:30 a.m., so only the most passionate of students would self-select. I’m glad he only contemplated that idea.

When it came time to do my junior paper, we crossed paths again when I ended up using his and Professor Daniel Kahneman’s Princeton Affect and Time Survey dataset. He was such a good adviser that I asked him to be my senior thesis adviser. Luckily, he agreed, but little did I know I would have competition.

Twice in my life, President Obama and I have competed for Alan’s advice. The first was in 2009, when he was nominated by Obama to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy. The second was in 2011, when he was nominated by Obama to be chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Alan and I had been exploring writing articles together on his Treasury days.

I think we all know who won.

On the bright side, having Alan in D.C. did mean he could give my then-83-year-old grandma a private tour of the White House. In exchange, she gave him two hand-beaded fish, one blue and one red, a bipartisan duo he displayed on a cabinet in his office.

Alan always encouraged me to take chances in life. He and Professor Kahneman shelled out 99 cents to be the first (of few) to purchase my self-published eBook. When I told him I was leaving consulting to pursue the entrepreneurial endeavor of opening a smoothie cafe in Santa Monica, he promised he’d make a trip to visit, and he did, fully endorsing our organic Boba and hot smoothies. I wish I could have organized that tennis match with Pete Sampras for Alan, who loved tennis. But that’s Alan, always happy to give more than receive.

Over the years, we’d meet on either coast, and Alan was always positive as we chatted about my and his various pivots in life.

Alan’s zest, kindness, and humbleness will never be forgotten.

Yuchen Zhang ’10
San Francisco, Calif.