In this editorial, the Board celebrates the life of Uwe Reinhardt, a renowned health economist and beloved Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School. During his lengthy academic career, Professor Reinhardt published articles in both leading economics and medical journals. He made significant contributions to the study of health care that influenced health policy topics including equity, cost-effectiveness of health care, payment reforms, veteran’s health care, and the political economy implications of U.S. health care. As the University wrote in its obituary for Professor Reinhardt, “his work was instrumental in advocating some of the reforms embodied in the Affordable Care Act, such as having Medicare pay for performance rather than entirely on a fee-for-service basis.” Professor Reinhardt was also a distinguished teacher who taught ECO 100 for many years. In addition to his academic work, Professor Reinhardt served as an advisor to many government commissions and advisory boards and was a trustee of Duke University.
Professor Reinhardt’s academic accomplishments go on, and the University memoriam comprehensively describes these important contributions reflect Princeton’s informal motto in the nation’s service and the service of humanity. As such, the Board would like to highlight additional aspects of his legacy. Professor Reinhardt was exceptional in his attention to the environment on campus and contributed positively to campus life. We note three of his contributions: his vocal support for veteran enrollment, his engagement with a 2015 campus referendum about divestment from Israel, and his support for free speech on campus.
In September 2013, Professor Reinhardt penned an op-ed in the Daily Princetonian arguing that the University’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity’s failure to include veterans in its list of diversity objectives constituted a “conspicuous absence of one dimension of diversity.” He wrote of the importance of having veterans within our campus community, given the unique perspective they add through their life experiences “in the nation’s service.” Additionally, he noted the discipline and idealism that the military impresses upon those who serve would bring something not commonly found on college campuses. Professor Reinhardt’s support for increasing veteran enrollment was especially important given that even ROTC was once banned at Princeton. Since the publication of the op-ed, his arguments have gained traction. The Board echoed many of Professor Reinhardt’s arguments in our recent editorial about increasing veteran enrollment. And this year, the University has promoted its goal of enrolling veterans with its new transfer program, expressing many of the sentiments of Professor Reinhardt’s op-ed.
During the Spring of 2015, Professor Reinhardt penned an op-ed opposing a student referendum calling for the University to divest from Israel, specifically writing that divestment was an empty moral gesture because of its limited impact on stock markets. Not only did Professor Reinhardt utilize his economic expertise to add an important dimension to what was a contentious campus debate, but the op-ed also reflects Professor Reinhardt’s engagement with the student body and a praiseworthy focus on campus life beyond his academic work. Such engagement, especially for a renowned scholar, is rare among professors. This anecdote is just one example of Professor Reinhardt’s genuine care for students and concern with campus life at Princeton.
Finally, Professor Reinhardt also demonstrated his support and attention to free speech on campus. He signed the James Madison Program’s “Think for Yourself” letter, in which a group of Princeton, Harvard, and Yale professors stressed the importance of free speech and individual thinking on college campuses, which the Board has continually emphasized. Professor Reinhardt was one of only 28 professors to sign this important statement. In light of this, the Board would like to praise Professor Reinhardt for taking what sadly must be considered a bold stance in today’s environment to strongly support free speech. Professor Reinhardt saw it correctly, that free speech is essential to the academic enterprise at Princeton.
As President Eisgruber said, “Uwe Reinhardt was one of Princeton’s most beloved teachers. He had a lasting impact on generations of students, and we will miss him tremendously.”