Hanging Out with a Nobel Prize Laureate

I extended my “15 minutes of fame” for a few more moments by hanging out with my brother–Nobel Prize Laureate Lars Peter Hansen–for two days.  And the experience was certainly different.

On 6 Mar 2014, I picked up Lars at the SLC airport and drove him to my office in Provo.  He had graciously agreed to give a short talk at my workplace:  the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.  This he did in fine fashion before having to run off to meet the Utah Governor in SLC.  In the rush, I forgot to pick up my sports coat.

After waiting a few minutes, we were ushered into Governor’s meet-and-greet room.  Governor Herbert and his administrative assistant soon arrived.  The Governor was a very gracious host.  He spent quite a bit of time talking to Lars, and shook hands and briefly talked to everyone in the room (including Utah State University President Stan Albrecht).

Commenting on my casual attire, the Governor said that he would “proclaim it a casual Thursday.”  (I was in levis and a sport shirt, while everyone else was in either a suit or a sports coat.)  He also mentioned that he had read my op-ed piece in the SL Tribune about Lars and public education, and appreciated the sentiment.

Governor Herbert Declaring It "Casual Thursday

Governor Herbert Declaring It “Casual Thursday

The Governor asked Lars why there are so may different opinions from economists about economic affairs.  Lars joking said that sometimes egos get in the way of good judgment.  The Governor joked back that politicians frequently have the same problem.

Everybody posed for photographs.

Me, Governor Herbert, Lars, and President Albrecht (from l to r)

Me, Governor Herbert, Lars, and President Albrecht (from l to r)

Next it was off to the Utah House of Representatives.  A Representative from Cache Valley introduced Lars to the House.  After the introduction, Lars got a long standing ovation.  After this activity, several Representatives wanted to have their picture taken with Lars.

Lars and President Albrecht in Front of the Utah House of Representatives

Lars and President Albrecht in Front of the Utah House of Representatives

Next it was off the Utah Senate.  A Senator from Cache valley introduced Lars.  After the introduction, the Senate went back to work.  After this, Lars talked to several movers-and-shakers, including Doug Foxley, and  was then whisked off to Logan.  (Doug is one of Utah’s prominent lobbyists and is a principal partner at Foxley and Pignanelli, Attorneys-at-Law.)

The next day, I drove up to Logan to hear my brother give the Founder’s Day lecture at USU.  Before I arrived, Lars had talked to 56 students at Adams Elementary School in Logan.  After his presentation, Lars told me that the students had asked him some tough questions.  But he also said it was a very enjoyable experience.

Lars with Students From Adams Elementary High School

Lars with Students From Adams Elementary High School

For his Founder’s Day lecture, Lars talked about the Nobel Prize experience, his economic research (in layman’s terms), and his family genealogy.  He paid tribute to our Mother and Father (Dad worked at USU for almost 20 years and Mother graduated from USU).

Lars Paying Tribute to Our Mother and Father During a Lecture at Utah State University

Lars Paying Tribute to Our Mother and Father During a Lecture at Utah State University

After the lecture, I talked briefly to some of the people I knew from my days at USU.  It was then off to President Albrecht’s home.  There we had a restful lunch with the President, some of our relatives (uncle and aunt, and cousins), Lars’s mentors, and a couple of deans.  After the luncheon, we visited another aunt who is 97-years-old and living in assisted living.

Lars Talking to Two of Our Favorite Relatives, Bruce and Joan Hansen

Lars Talking to Two of Our Favorite Relatives, Bruce and Joan Hansen

While in Logan, I transacted some business with USU Water Lab staff and Lars accompanied me.  Lars was given a tour of the Lab.

That evening before a buffet dinner, there was a Founder’s Day program recognizing USU students and alums.  Lars was one of the honorees.  In his short speech, he gave a great tribune to USU, acknowledging  the wonderful impact that USU and its professors had had on his life.  And how important USU is to our family.  After his talk, President Albrecht called Lars back to the stand (along with the Mayor of Logan).  Lars was informed that Logan City had renamed one of its streets after him.  According to the local newspaper:

Lars Being Told They Were Renaming a Logan UT Street after Him

Lars Being Told They Were Renaming a Logan UT Street after Him

Logan Mayor Craig Peterson said within the next few months, the Lars Hansen street signs will be placed along a portion of 800 East that will be renamed.  The signs will say “Lars Hansen Drive” but will still include “800 East” to avoid confusion.

Lars Hansen Drive in Logan UT

Lars Hansen Drive in Logan UT

This is not the first time USU has renamed a street.  In 2011, Albrecht cut the ribbon to unveil that 700 North would be called Aggie Bull-evard [bull being the USU mascot].

Lars’s short comments at the Founder’s Day celebration can be seen here.  (The last minute of the video is where the Logan Mayor and President Albrecht informed Lars that they are naming a street in his honor.)

This was pretty much the end of the 2-day party.  Lars and I had dinner and talked to a few more people, and then adjourned for the night.  The next morning, it was back to the SLC airport.  Over the 2-day period, Lars was constantly being asked to pose for photographs.  He was very gracious to everyone.

During Lars’s talks, he frequently mentions that while in high school he was chided for “not respecting authority.”  He finally told me why.  An English teacher had passed out a paragraph that was not punctuated, and as a homework assignment the students were supposed to punctuate it.  As it turns out, the paragraph was taken from a book by Thornton Wilder, and Lars had read the book.  So he punctuated the paragraph as per Wilder’s book.  He received a C+ on the assignment.  When he informed the teacher that she had just given Wilder a C+, she was not amused.  I think “not respecting authority” is a Hansen family trait.

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