Patrick Harker to head Philadelphia Federal Reserve

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As president of the Fed in Philadelphia, Patrick T. Harker will have a say in interest-rate decisions in Washington.

Patrick T. Harker, the former Wharton School dean who is president of the University of Delaware, will leave that job July 1 to serve as the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The move will give Harker a voice, on a rotating basis with other regional Fed presidents, in interest-rate decisions in Washington. Currently, a Philly Fed board member, Harker will be in charge of taking the economic pulse of the Third Federal Reserve District - eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware - and reporting it to Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other officials.

In Harker, the Philadelphia-area bankers and business executives on the local Fed board have a well-connected public figure with a record of engaging both government and the private sector.

Harker's "deep roots in the region, his distinguished career in academia, his drive for innovation, and his passion to make our region an economic engine for the future truly impressed our board," Philadelphia Fed board chairman James Nevels, founder of the Swarthmore Group, said in a statement Monday.

Harker's public role contrasts with the more purely academic and ideological focus of Charles I. Plosser, who retired as Philly Fed president March 1. A free-market economist, Plosser argued that the Fed lacked the power to do more than influence price and interest levels, and warned against inflation.

On Harker's watch, the University of Delaware - which developed strong chemical engineering, accounting, and art programs in part to serve the DuPont Co. and the du Pont family when they dominated the state - expanded its focus on preparing nurse-practitioners and other health professionals (partly in alliance with Thomas Jefferson University) and business information specialists (with a close recruiting relationship at JPMorgan Chase & Co.). Green energy, start-ups, and security technology also were focuses.

He wanted to add a law school, a move stalled by the recession. He rallied supporters to win federal support for improvements to the modest Amtrak and SEPTA train station in Newark, Del., in hope of linking the school through Maryland commuter trains to military and security institutions.

Harker led the acquisition of the former Chrysler factory next to the campus. He agreed to consider a data-center project backed by Gov. Jack Markell, but the natural-gas-fired power plant that would adjoin it provoked unanimous Faculty Senate opposition, and Harker scuttled the plan last year.

A column he published in The Inquirer last month was challenged by the faculty union for suggesting that universities need to cut costs and add standardized online courses.

"Managing a university is not an easy task. He's made his mark," said State Sen. Greg Lavelle, leader of the Republican minority in Dover.

Before moving to UD in 2007, Harker, a Gloucester Catholic High School graduate with four University of Pennsylvania degrees, had taught management and private enterprise at Wharton. (Students he knew included Tesla founder Elon Musk.) He had served as dean since 2000.

 


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