Obituary Thomas Laubach

We are deeply saddened about the loss of our former colleague Thomas Laubach, who died on September 2, 2020 at the age of 55. Thomas was appointed as Professor of Macroeconomics in the Department of Money and Macroeconomics in 2008. In 2012, he returned to the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, in Washington, DC. From 2015 until his untimely passing away with pancreatic cancer, he there served as the Director of the Division of Monetary Affairs, which prepares the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions. 

Thomas Laubach was a highly influential policy adviser, a researcher who uncovered novel and policy-relevant insights and a teacher committed to the advancement of his students. Colleagues at Goethe University remember him as a thoughtful, even-tempered, and kind colleague. He was greatly respected as a scholar and most appreciated for his commitment to the promotion of research excellence as well as exceptional teaching and graduate student training.    

He started his university studies in Germany at Bonn and then earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University. Stages of his path to Goethe University included positions as economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, DC and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

As a professor, Thomas was deeply interested in what motivated students and in how they could be best prepared for their future careers as economists. In particular, graduate training and the structured Ph.D. program were near and dear to his heart. He undertook immense efforts to develop the Ph.D. program further and establish it as a favored institution for research-oriented employers. He collaborated closely with his colleagues and was highly reputed for equipping students with up-to-date theory, modern quantitative methods, and an understanding for practically relevant economic analysis.

In his research, Thomas developed new approaches to understand and estimate the natural rate of interest, an important concept for monetary policy which has shaped policy debates in the last decade. Early on in his career, he had already co-authored influential research on inflation targeting with, among others, the then-future Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke. While at Goethe University, he advanced research on fiscal policy and the effects of government debt on interest rates.

In addition, Thomas at Goethe University served as Chair of the Department of Macroeconomics. He is well remembered for his eagerness to do the best for the group and for his balanced, respectful and equitable approach to his colleagues. While we deeply regretted his departure from Frankfurt in 2012, the fact that he eventually went on to lead the Division of Monetary Affairs at the U.S. Fed remained a great source of pride for us as his former colleagues. Upon leaving, Thomas wrote: “The past three and a half years have been for me a time of enormous professional growth. I feel very privileged to have been part of this department, and to have had the opportunity to contribute to the many initiatives we undertook during those years.” It was our privilege to have known Thomas and he will be remembered fondly. Our thoughts are with his dear wife and three children.

Prof. Volker Wieland

Professor of Monetary Economics at the Goethe University

Speaker of the Department Money and Macroeconomics