Alumni Spotlight - Paul Kasriel

USF alumnus and Northern Trust economist reflects on career

Paul Kasriel's long career in economics started with a professor taking a sick day.

As a student at USF in the 60s, he took an economics elective that he didn't find especially interesting. Then one day, the professor was out sick and another faculty member, Jim Herman, filled in. That professor's teaching style spoke to Kasriel, who signed up for another introductory economics course Herman was teaching.

"He was every bit as good and better as that day he'd filled in," Kasriel said. "I really enjoyed that course, and he continued to pique my interest in economics."

Kasriel, who recently retired as chief economist of Northern Trust bank, said Herman's teaching shaped the course of his life.

"The way he laid it all out was very understandable to me and interesting to me," Kasriel said. "I actually blame him for getting me started in a career in economics."

Kasriel went on to get a master's in economics at Indiana University, another semi-fluke: he applied to other graduate schools in psychology, but Indiana offered him a fellowship to study economics. That set him on a path to the Chicago Federal Reserve after graduation, and then to 25 years with Northern Trust.

As Northern Trust's chief economist, Kasriel made forecasts about the general economy and interest rates and traveled the world sharing his research with clients. He said the best compliment he was offered over his career by clients was that he was the first economist they were ever able to understand.

"I did believe that if you can't explain what you were talking about to your grandmother, you probably don't understand it yourself," he said. "Also, what good is it if someone else can't understand it? Your job is to persuade people."

Now semi-retired, Kasriel lives in Sturgeon, Wis., with his wife of 46 years, Catherine, also a USF alumna whom Kasriel met after a USF Honors convocation -- "I said, 'not only is she pretty, but she's smart.' " He plans to spend his retirement doing consulting work, struggling to learn the bass guitar, and sailing on Green Bay.

Kasriel said looking back on his career, while he did do some of the sitting in a tower, poring over charts, work that people typically think of economists as doing, he's happy to have spent so much of his life getting to do relevant research and teaching people across the world the ins and outs of the economy.

"For a kid who grew up in Tampa, Fla., that was pretty exciting stuff," he said.