William Dudley '71, President and CEO, New York Fed
“I took as many courses in literature as I did in economics and truly believe a liberal arts education is important to developing breadth.”
New College alumnus William Dudley serves on the financial front line as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. His arduous days at the office are consumed with managing the bank’s emergency lending programs and developing policies effecting Wall Street firms. A New College economics major who also studied literature, Dudley holds a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkley, was an economist at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington in the early 1980s, and worked for Goldman Sachs for more than two decades (where he became the chief U.S. economist in 1995).
What surprises and challenges have you encountered since joining the New York Fed?
I joined in 2007, in the biggest economic recession, so I’ve had many challenges. The first was to fix the regulatory regime so we never have that kind of financial crisis again – including changing how people are compensated and, more broadly, making the system more robust and resilient. This takes time, but I think we’re making progress.
What do you enjoy most and least about the work you do?
I come in every day with no moral ambiguity about what the point of my role is. The point is to create the best policy I can for the country. The policy issues we’re dealing with are challenging, stimulating and different. In the U.S. regulatory structure, there are a lot of players, so it can be frustrating to find consensus on issues.
How did your New College experience impact your life, career-wise?
I think it was extraordinarily valuable. I remember I took one test the whole time I was there; the rest was spent thinking and writing. That’s much more germane to your career than taking tests. I took as many courses in literature as I did in economics, and truly believe a liberal arts education is important to developing breadth. I even worked on a political campaign while I was at New College.
What do you like to do in your free time, when you have some?
If I’m tired, I read junky books like thrillers. I recently read books by Stieg Larsson, which of course turned into best-selling movies like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I also like John Cusack movies like “Say Anything” and “High Fidelity.”
What has been your biggest surprise in life?
That I’m here doing what I’m doing now. I didn’t plan out my career. I didn’t have any delusions of grandeur. I just sort of kept going. For me to be the president of this bank, I think the probability was about one in a million.
What words of wisdom would you offer today’s New College graduating class?
I would tell people they should find something they really have passion for. They will do it well and enjoy it, and that will generate a very big career. You’ll never have trouble looking at yourself in the mirror if you do that.