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Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Dr. Joseph Berechman Named Marvin Kristein Professor of Economics

The Department of Economics professor's honor reflects the legacy of Marvin Kristein, an economist and distinguished alumnus of City College, and is marked by a gift from the Kristein estate to the school. 

Joseph Berechman

When Joseph Berechman, Ph.D., learned he had been chosen as the first Marvin Kristein Professor in the Department of Economics and Business at the Colin Powell School, he felt honored. “It means a lot to me,” Dr. Berechman, an internationally recognized specialist in the field of transportation economics and policy, noted simply in a recent conversation.

More important, he added, is what the professorship means to the Department of Economics and Business as a whole: “It’s a powerful statement,” said Dr. Berechman, former chair. “It’s a way of saying to our department, ‘yes, we recognize your performance and your standing in the field, and we’d like to show our appreciation by giving a named professorship to someone within the department.’”

That this tribute honor Dr. Berechman’s contributions is only fitting. In early 2007, he joined City College with a mandate to rebuild the unit. Previously, Dr. Berechman, a native of Israel, had served for close to three decades at the University of Tel Aviv. He also was CN Chair Professor in Transportation and International Logistics at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Within three years of his move to CCNY, Dr. Berechman had hired 11 sharp young faculty on tenure-track lines, overseen a restructuring of the curriculum and the addition of new majors, helped revise the master’s degree program, and revitalized a program focused on the Chinese economy. It was hard work, but rewarding, he recalled.

A few years into this transformation, Dr. Berechman attended a memorial service for City College alumnus Marvin Kristein, an economist. Asked to share a few remarks about Dr. Kristein’s home at CCNY, Dr. Berechman briefly described the legacy of the department and its evolution. Unintentionally, he lit the spark that grew into the endowment. 

“Dr. Berechman is a distinguished researcher, and this gift enables him to devote more time to his research,” notes current department chair Kevin Foster. That research currently includes an examination the ways transportation-related decisions are made, what forces shape them, and how they go bad. “Take, for instance, the Boston Big Dig,” Dr. Berechman says. “It was projected to cost $5 billion and ended up costing over $15 billion. We’re looking at the forces that cause bad outcomes to snowball.” 

His interests have followed a natural evolution, ranging from the economics of public transportation deregulation in the early 1990s while a fellow at the Dutch Institute of Advance Studies, to whether and how transportation investment engenders economic investment in 2000. His work after 9–11 on a team that assessed transportation options for Lower Manhattan led him to consider how to prioritize competing transportation investment options. In each area, his work has resulted in a book; the most recent, titled The Evaluation of Transportation Investment Projects. Now he’s working on his sixth, Tangled Decisions: Supplying the Infrastructure We Ride On (working title). It’s a legacy that would no doubt make Marvin Kristein proud. As Dr. Foster notes, “Our department is honored by the gift from the Kristein estate and family. Marvin Kristein was an excellent economist and distinguished alumnus of City College, and we are proud to be able to memorialize him in this way.”