Economics department receives $500K gift honoring Tapan Mitra

The Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) has received a $500,000 gift in support of conferences and other activities centered around economic theory.
Named in honor of the late Tapan Mitra, longtime professor of economics at Cornell and two-time chair of the department, the Dr. Tapan Mitra Economics Fund continues his passion for top-level collaboration in economic theory and his legacy of generosity.
During his life, Dr. Mitra wished to support economic theory at Cornell as a part of his estate planning process. The gift from his estate was facilitated by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.
“Dr. Mitra has passed on his dedication to our department, said Seth Sanders, the Ronald G. Ehrenberg Professor of Economics and chair of the economics department (A&S).“We are deeply appreciative, and it makes us understand the work that earlier generations of faculty did to establish economics at Cornell and motivates us to carry forward that legacy.”
Future conferences supported by the fund will bring scholars together to exchange ideas and disseminate research findings in areas including microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometric theory.
“These are the core of what economics is about and form the core of our teaching of graduate students,” Sanders said. “In the long run, these funds will be used to convene meetings on the evolving frontiers in these areas. It will be a way for our faculty and graduate students to bring together world experts in a frontier issue, to understand cutting edge methods and results and to share the work being done in the department at Cornell.”
The first conference, planned for spring 2025, will honor Professor Mitra and bring world class scholars and former students to campus. During the first five years, the fund will be used to host conferences focusing on frontiers in micro economic theory, Sanders said.
The gift continues a family tradition in economics. Mitra’s cousin, Dr. Mukul Majumdar, was a professor of economic theory at Cornell for roughly 50 years. His nephew, Aveek Majumdar ’05, majored in economics at Cornell.
“My uncle was a constructive and supportive mentor for many, including myself,” Aveek Majumdar said. “These conferences will hopefully be a benefit for the field and for Cornell, an institution he cared deeply about.”
“Dr. Mitra’s passion for the community and for education drove him to make significant philanthropic gifts, both during and after his life,” said George Ferrari, CEO of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, where Mitra established three funds in 2016: for education, cancer research and future generations. “Community Foundation is honored to uphold his philanthropic intentions to the benefit of residents and Cornell students and faculty alike.”

Mitra taught at Cornell from 1981 until his death in 2019 and served as chair of Cornell’s Department of Economics from 1993–98 and from 1999–2002. His research themes included analysis of the economic decision-making of “forward-looking agents” – individual and societal agents who consciously plan today’s actions knowing they will affect their future opportunities as well as future welfare.

Mitra made pioneering contributions to issues that have become central to macroeconomic theory, Sanders said, and he understood the reach of theory into economics broadly.
In 2016, Mitra established annual prizes in the Department of Economics with a $100,000 endowment to recognize promising graduate students and to support graduate student research. In 2008, an economic theory conference was held at Cornell in honor of Mitra’s 60th birthday.
Mitra was dedicated to the exchange of ideas and to excellence at Cornell, believing that collaboration produced the best work, Sanders said: “This fund will encourage collaboration and will focus on areas on which the entire discipline is built just as Dr. Mitra did throughout his career."

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Tapan Mitra
Tapan Mitra