With a generous gift, Dr. Nick Sargen ‘66 celebrates 60 years since graduating from Berkeley Economics

With his gift, Dr. Sargen’s support ensures that The Center of Applications of Mathematics and Statistics to Economics (CAMSE) will become a thriving institution. He shares his UC Berkeley story.

The Center of Applications of Mathematics and Statistics to Economics (CAMSE) founded by two Berkeley Economics Nobel laureates, Gérard Debreu (1983) and Daniel McFadden (2000), was proudly re-established in 2018. CAMSE’s mission is to support research in theoretical economics and econometrics. In 2021, CAMSE received a generous matching gift from a dedicated supporter of Berkeley Economics, Nick Sargen ‘66. The gift was a response to a campus matching program, brokered between then Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos and Economics De[artment Chair Shachar Kariv.
The funds provided to CAMSE will be used primarily to support basic research in microeconomic theory and econometrics and collaboration with related fields including statistics, mathematics, and computer science. 
“It always gives me great pleasure to hear Nick speaking about his time at Berkeley and the contributions Berkeley Economics made in his life,” says Shachar Kariv, Chair of the Economics Department and an affiliate CAMSE faculty member. “Nick is the perfect alum – a great source of ideas and creative suggestions. As Department Chair and Development Chair, I have had the pleasure of interacting with many kind and considerate Berkeley alumni, but Nick’s awareness and consideration of the faculty and students is exceptional. I therefore take great pride in having him support CAMSE and cherish him tremendously.”

Dr. Sargen’s support ensures that CAMSE will become a thriving institution – a center for research and a hub for training graduate students – in the same vein of the model employed for the Center for Labor Economics (CLE), directed by our most recent Nobel laureate and class of 1950 Professor of Economics David Card.
Dr. Sargen generously shared a few words about his Berkeley story, on the eve of the 60 year anniversary of becoming a student at Cal.

I am at the stage of life where I spend more time reflecting on my experiences than pondering my future. It is hard to believe next year will mark the 60th anniversary since I became a Cal undergraduate.  Many of the events then are still fresh in my mind.

The opening speech from the Dean of Students challenged the freshman class to reject the isolationism of the beat generation and to become highly engaged in social and political issues.  The students took this message to heart two years later, when the administration banned on-campus political activities.  When I arrived at Sather Gate one morning in the fall of 1964, I was shocked to find an armada of buses filled with police from Berkeley and Oakland to remove protestors from Sproul Hall.

This event would mark the launch of the Free Speech Movement. It was the vanguard of a wave of student-led protests that spread across college campuses during the 1960s on behalf of civil rights and against the Vietnam War.  As it unfolded, I was exposed to a wide diversity of views and people, and my opinions on many issues changed during my four years at Cal.    
Looking back on this experience, I am grateful for the liberal arts education I received, because it broadened me and gave me insights into areas I had not explored previously.  

As a freshman, my overriding goal was to get a good job, and I contemplated becoming a business administration major.  This option was only available the junior year, however, and the prerequisites included courses in economics and accounting.  Much to my surprise, I found the introductory course in macroeconomics stimulating, particularly the role fiscal and monetary policies played in job creation and inflation.  When I aced the midterm exam, the instructor wrote in my bluebook, “Do I see a budding economist?”

After declaring econ as my major, I chose international economics and finance as my area of specialization, because I wanted to learn more about the world and to travel abroad.  I also developed skills in mathematics and statistics to prepare me for studying economics in grad school.

Beyond this, Berkeley provided an opportunity to broaden my interests in history and writing.  One of my favorite courses was European Intellectual History taught by renowned Professor Carl Schorske, as it exposed me to European cultural thought.

By comparison, my freshman English class terrified me.  The reason: I barely received a passing grade on my first essays.  Over time, however, I learned to posit a point of view and to support it with logical arguments, which has served me well in my career.

Finally, as I contemplate the value of my education from Cal, I relate a letter Dean Henry Rosovsky (an Economics professor at Berkeley in the 1960s) wrote to Harvard’s faculty in November of 1976.  Rosovsky began the letter by noting that at every Commencement, the President of Harvard welcomes the graduates “to the company of educated men and women.”  He then asked what the standard for undergraduate education should be, and he listed six qualifications for an “educated person”:

They must be able to think and write clearly and effectively.
They should have a critical appreciation of the ways in which we gain knowledge and understanding of the universe, of society, and of ourselves.
They cannot be provincial in the sense of being ignorant of other cultures and other times.
They are expected to have some understanding of and experience in thinking about moral and ethical problems.
They should have good manners and high aesthetic and moral standards.
They should have achieved some depth in some field of knowledge.

Based on these criteria, I want to express my appreciation to the University of California, Berkeley for the excellent education I received.  Any lapses since then are entirely of my own doing.


Nicholas Sargen
(Berkeley B.A. 1966)