I School's First Endowed Chair Will Be the Hal R. Varian Chair in Information Economics

The School of Information is delighted to announce the creation of its first endowed chair, the Hal R. Varian Chair in Information Economics, thanks to a generous gift from Hal R. Varian and matching funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“This is terrific for the school,” said I School Dean AnnaLee Saxenian, “and it’s fitting that the founding dean of the school is endowing its first chair. This will be a wonderful legacy for Hal.”

The Hal R. Varian Chair in Information Economics will fund the work of an eminent faculty member, with a joint appointment in the School of Information and the Department of Economics, whose work involves research and teaching in the area of Information Economics.

“I made this donation to support teaching and research in Information Economics,” explained Varian. “Information is the lifeblood of the economy. Everybody who works in the information field should know something about economics, and every economist should know something about information.”

Varian was the founding dean of the I School (then known as the School of Information Management & Systems) and is now the Chief Economist at Google, where he has been involved in auction design, econometric analysis, finance, corporate strategy, and public policy. He is also a UC Berkeley professor emeritus in business, economics, and information management.

A world-renowned economist, Varian has published numerous papers in economic theory, industrial organization, financial economics, econometrics, and information economics. He is the author of two major economics textbooks and the co-author of a bestselling book on business strategy, Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Varian also wrote a monthly column for the New York Times from 2000 to 2007.

“No area of research could be more exigent than the economics of information,” said Carla Hesse, the university’s Dean of Social Sciences. “This is a pathbreaking gift from a pathbreaking scholar.”

Dean Saxenian agreed. “The field of Information Economics is very important for understanding information and information behavior,” she said. “We couldn’t be where we are without a strong foundation in economics.”

The School of Information and the Department of Economics plan to hire a new faculty member by Fall 2013 to fill the endowed chair.

Varian’s gift allows the school to take advantage of a matching gift from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, through the Hewlett Challenge. The Hewlett Challenge is a $110-million challenge grant — the largest gift in the university’s history — to endow a total of 100 new faculty chairs across the university.

“The Hewlett matching grant offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and provided me a strong incentive to make a donation now,” said Varian. With the creation of the Hal R. Varian Chair in Information Economics, the Hewlett Challenge has now funded more than 90 of the 100 professorships and is on target to reach the full 100 soon.

“I have written a couple of papers on the incentive effect of matching grants,” commented Varian, “so in this case, it seems that ‘life imitates art.’”