Thomas Schelling

Honorary Degree Citation

Thomas Schelling

Thomas Schelling. Uncommon social scientist. Policy advisor. Teacher. You were among the first to use game theory as a wide-ranging tool of social science. Educated at Berkeley and Harvard, you have made extraordinary academic contributions in the fields of economics and international relations during your career at Yale, at the University of Maryland, and, for 30 years in between, at Harvard University. Your practical application of game theory to problems of conflict and coordination led to the publication in 1960 of your path-breaking book The Strategy of Conflict. You introduced essential ideas to economic and game-theory analysis, including the concepts of focal points, coordination mechanisms, pre-commitment as strategy, and credible deterrence. You were a pioneer in behavioral economics with your work on addiction, personal control, and self-constraint. Your study of segregation showed how moderate individual preferences can lead to extreme social outcomes such as total racial segregation. Throughout your career, your emphasis on clear, logical reasoning has allowed the power of your ideas to transcend the confines of academia. In particular, your work on nuclear deterrence, both as a professor and as a White House staff member and advisor, played a crucial role in the formation of United States policy on nuclear arms during the Cold War and earned you the National Academy of Sciences Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War. In 2005, you were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Thomas C. Schelling, the degree of Doctor of Education, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.

Conferred May 27, 2007


Thomas Schelling won the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and is an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, Professor Schelling’s early career saw him working in Paris and Copenhagen as an administrator of the Marshall Plan, serving as a staffer for the White House foreign policy advisor, and teaching at Yale University. While at Yale he began the work on game theory that later caught the attention of the Nobel committee. He taught at Harvard for 31 years, in the department of economics, the Center for International Affairs, and the Kennedy School of Government, while also consulting with the United States government on issues including arms control. After retiring from Harvard, in 1990, he became Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. He has continued to do research and to write on nuclear weapons policy, climate change, and, since 2001, on terrorism. He is the author of the influential book The Strategy of Conflict (1960) and the subject of a recent biography, The Strategist: The Life and Times of Thomas Schelling (2006), by Robert Dodge.

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