Rebecca Blank

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Rebecca Blank
Rebecca Blank official portrait.jpg
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
Assumed office
July 22, 2013
Preceded byCarolyn Martin
United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
June 11, 2012 – June 1, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJohn Bryson
Succeeded byCameron Kerry (acting)
In office
August 1, 2011 – October 21, 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byGary Locke
Succeeded byJohn Bryson
United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce
In office
November 18, 2010 – June 1, 2013
Acting: November 18, 2010 – March 29, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byDennis Hightower
Succeeded byBruce H. Andrews
Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs
In office
June 9, 2009 – March 29, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byCynthia Glassman
Succeeded byMark Doms
Personal details
Born (1955-09-19) September 19, 1955 (age 65)
Columbia, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Hanns Kuttner
EducationUniversity of Minnesota (BA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, PhD)

Rebecca M. "Becky" Blank (born September 19, 1955[1]) is an American academic administrator and former government official who serves as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Prior to her role in the University of Wisconsin System, Blank served in various roles in the United States Department of Commerce, including as acting United States Secretary of Commerce.

Early life and education[edit]

A native of Missouri, Blank graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a degree in economics and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Prior to her career in government, Blank was the Robert S. Kerr Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. From 1997 to 1999, Blank was one of three members of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, participating in White House decision-making on economic, social and regulatory policy issues.[2]

She was a professor of economics at Northwestern University and director of the University of ChicagoNorthwestern University Joint Center for Poverty Research. She also taught at Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[3]

Department of Commerce[edit]

Blank joined the Commerce Department in June 2009 as Secretary Gary Locke's principal economic advisor in her role as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). ESA oversees the two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. She also served as Locke's appointed Board Representative to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.[2]

During her service at ESA, Blank played an important role overseeing a decennial Census operation which was both timely and under budget – netting $1.6 billion in 2010 savings. Within ESA, she supervised a staff of economists and policy analysts who produce a wide variety of reports and forecasts that help develop and assess domestic and international policy.[2]

On November 18, 2010, United States Department of Commerce announced that Rebecca Blank would become its Acting Deputy Secretary. In that role, she focused on matters of management and policy for the department's 12 bureaus, functioning as Commerce's chief operating officer.[4] Her management roles were overseeing nearly 45,000 employees and also a $10 billion budget.[5]

In late-2011, President Obama nominated Blank to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce. The United States Senate confirmed her to the post on March 29, 2012 by unanimous consent.[6]

Blank became the Acting Secretary of Commerce for the first time on August 1, 2011, after Gary Locke became U.S. Ambassador to China.[7] President Obama nominated John Bryson and on October 21, 2011 and he became the 37th Secretary of Commerce. At the same time, Blank was designated the Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

Blank was designated Acting Secretary of Commerce a second time on June 11, 2012. Incumbent Secretary John Bryson took a medical leave of absence following his citation on felony hit-and-run charges. He transferred his powers to Blank for an undetermined length of time.[8] A Department of Commerce spokesperson said he had suffered a seizure.[9]

On March 18, 2013, Blank announced that she was leaving the Obama administration to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Following her resignation, Cameron Kerry was designated as Acting Secretary of Commerce, pending the Senate confirmation of Penny Pritzker.

University of Wisconsin – Madison[edit]

It was announced on February 21, 2013, that Blank was one of four finalists for the position of Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[10] A special committee of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents recommended her for the position on March 18, and she announced that she would accept the position the same day. The full Board of Regents unanimously confirmed Blank as chancellor on April 5, and she began as chancellor on July 22.[11][12] Blank was previously a finalist for the position in 2008.[13]

Honors and distinctions[edit]

Blank is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the Society of Labor Economists, an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and a lifetime associate at the National Academies of Science. She has served in a wide variety of advisory and professional roles, including service on the Boards of Directors of MDRC, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Urban Institute. She was a long-time faculty affiliate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, vice president of the American Economic Association, and president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.


Blank is the author of numerous books and articles that focus on the interaction between the macro economy, the labor market, government social policy programs, and the behavior and well-being of low-income families. Her 1997 book, It Takes A Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty (Princeton University Press) won the Richard A. Lester Award for the Outstanding Book in Labor Economics and Industrial Relations. Among her other recent books are Changing Inequality (University of California Press, 2011), Insufficient Funds: Savings, Assets, Credit, and Banking Among Low-Income Families (joint with Michael Barr, Russell Sage Press, 2009), and Is the Market Moral? (With William McGurn, Brookings Press, 2004.) She is the author of over 100 articles in books and academic journals.[14]


  2. ^ a b c Commerce. "Rebecca M. Blank". Department of Commerce Official Biography. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  3. ^ "Rebecca Blank's Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  4. ^ Commerce. "Commerce Department Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank Named Acting Deputy Secretary". Department of Commerce Press Releases. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  5. ^ "Rebecca M. Blank | The Hamilton Project". Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  6. ^ "Becky Blank confirmed as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs". The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. May 26, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
  7. ^ Department of Commerce. "Secretary Locke Resigns, Becomes Next Ambassador to China; Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Assumes Role of Acting Secretary". Department of Commerce blog. Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  8. ^ "White House: Bryson to take medical leave". USA Today. June 11, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  9. ^ "Commerce agency: Secretary John Bryson had seizure linked to crashes". The Los Angeles Times. June 11, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  10. ^ "Regents panel recommends Rebecca Blank as next UW-Madison chancellor". University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  11. ^ "Regents confirm Rebecca Blank as next UW-Madison chancellor" The Daily Cardinal. April 5, 2013.
  12. ^ "Blank reaches out on first day as chancellor" University of Wisconsin. July 26, 2013.
  13. ^ "Scott Walker says Rebecca Blank is a great pick for UW-Madison chancellor". The Capital Times. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  14. ^ Blank, Rebecca. "Dr. Blank's Personal Comments". Missing or empty |url= (help)

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document: "Rebecca M. Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce and Under Secretary for Economic Affairs".

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Cynthia Glassman
Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs
Succeeded by
Mark Doms
Preceded by
Dennis Hightower
United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Patrick Gallagher
Preceded by
Gary Locke
United States Secretary of Commerce

Succeeded by
John Bryson
Preceded by
John Bryson
United States Secretary of Commerce

Succeeded by
Cameron Kerry
Academic offices
Preceded by
David Ward
Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison