Although Economic courses appear in the original curriculum and have been taught continuously at Davidson College, they did not appear as separate “Department of Instruction” until the 1920s. In fact, for the first fifty years of Davidson’s history, the economics curriculum consisted of a single course on the “Political Economy,” which applied “moral philosophy” to matters of the economy, and was taught by the college President, from Robert Hall Morrison to Andrew D. Hepburn. By 1886, Davidson hired W.S. Currell, for an appointment in English, Psychology and the Political Economy, and Currell was the first person holding a Ph.D. in Economics to teach at Davidson. He remained for seven years, and expanded the readings and recitations from solely clerical texts to include more specialized economic texts. This trend continued with Currell’s successors, and by 1900 the course was renamed “Economics.” Meanwhile, the chair in mathematics taught a course in “Accounting and Business Management.”
In 1920, the formal Department of Business, Commerce and Finance was established, with a docket of ten courses: Economics I and II; Business Organization and Finance; Taxation and Public Finance; Transportation and Money and Banking; Insurance and Labor Problems; Government and International Relations; Accounting; Salesmanship and Advertising.
Also in 1920, a separate Department of Economics was established, although it did achieve “maturity” for six more years. In 1925, the first member of the faculty solely responsible for teaching economics was hired, and in 1926, five courses were transferred from the Department of Business, Commerce and Finance to the Department of Economics (although they remained cross-listed).
In the years preceding WWII, the two departments merged, only to resegregate again in 1954, when Trustees created a Department of Business Administration. The departments were rejoined in 1961 as the Department of Economics and Business Administration. In 1968, the department was renamed as the current Department of Economics.
With the stabilization of department organization, the newly constituted Department of Economics began expanding the curriculum in the late 1960s, but the most innovative change resulted from the implementation of a capstone Senior Session, which required students to undertake a seminar or research project under faculty guidance, and pass a comprehensive examination.
As of 2012, the department has 9 faculty, including Dean of the Faculty Clark Ross, and offers 30 courses. It ranks as one the top five degree programs at the college.
The economics department annually features lectures by many prominent economists, particularly through the endowed Cornelson Distinguished Lecture in Economics, a series which began in 1987.
Ratliff, Charles E., Jr. Economics at Davidson: A Sesquicentennial History. Davidson, N.C.: Davidson College, 1987.
Author: Jim Harris
Date: 6 February 2012
Cite as: Harris, Jim. “Economics Department,” Davidson Encyclopedia, 6 February 2012. https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/encyclopedia/page/economics-department