I am delighted to announce the 2017 winner of the Charles Koch Outstanding IHS Alum Award.
Professor Howard Baetjer, Jr., is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics at Towson University, where he has taught since 1997. His most recent book, Free Our Markets: A Citizens’ Guide to Essential Economics explains, in clear and lucid prose, why free markets lead to human flourishing.
If you know Professor Baetjer, you surely know him as Howie. In the halls of IHS, Howie has rockstar status as one of our most popular teachers in our summer seminars and in our Learn Liberty videos.
To give you some sense of Howie’s talent as a teacher, I want to take you back, nearly thirty years, to the fall of 1988. This is when I first met Howie, when he was a second-year PhD student in the Economics Department at George Mason University. I was starting my first year in the program. Howie’s second-year status alone was meaningful: anyone who had survived their first year had already been tested, so it was natural for me to look up to him.
Unlike many of us, who came into the program completely wet behind the ears, Howie already had what can only be described as gravitas. With a good deal of professional experience, and multiple graduate degrees in English Literature and Political Science from some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, Howie possessed a breadth of knowledge and insight most of us would take years to cultivate.
Teaching was in Howie’s DNA, but not because he was quick to pontificate. On the contrary, he possessed the measured and mature instincts of a seasoned teacher by asking good questions. When someone challenged his own conclusions, he led with curiosity and wonder. This was rare in the competitive world of graduate students vying to be seen as the smartest person in the room. When someone’s argument didn’t seem quite right, he would say, “That’s interesting. I’m curious to hear more.” And then he would do something really remarkable. He would listen. And I mean, actually listen.
In the years that followed, I had the honor of teaching with Howie at many IHS summer seminars. And this careful listening and slow, unhurried assessment of what others had to say had shaped Howie into a masterful teacher. When a student would make an error in analysis or miss the point of a lecture, Howie would offer the necessary course correction, but always with a sense of humility, always leaving the student feeling respected, smart, and more excited than ever about the ideas we had come together to learn. This is the kind of teaching that opens students’ minds and changes students’ lives.
The Institute for Humane Studies named this award in honor of business leader Charles Koch, in recognition of his longstanding support for IHS since 1963 and his steadfast advocacy for a free and open society. Since the earliest days of IHS, Charles has served on the IHS board, and as our board chair from 1969-1980 and from 1990 to the present.
Previous award winners are outstanding scholars, thinkers, communicators, and academic entrepreneurs. I’m delighted to add Howie to this roster of truly outstanding IHS alumni.