Esteemed professor receives prestigious honor as the name of the new Chair of Economics

Esteemed professor receives prestigious honor as the name of the new Chair of Economics

By Cibeles Duran

Esteemed professor receives prestigious honor as the name of the new Chair of Economics

By Cibeles Duran
Retiring Professor Philip K. Robins thought that he would quietly retreat from his profession. Instead, he learned that his name would live in perpetuity at Miami Herbert Business School.
For nearly four decades, chatter among students within the halls of Miami Herbert derived an overall consensus about Professor Philip K. Robins: his Labor Economics course was a “must take” and he was beloved for an articulate teaching style and an ease for imparting wisdom.

One of his earliest students, former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar, who also led the Hurricanes to their first championship in 1983, describes the impact of the professor’s legacy.

“He teaches life’s lessons that stay with us a lifetime and we are still benefiting from that,” he says. “Just paying attention in class and trying to take in all that wisdom in a classroom setting, then transferring it over to a football field, it still resonates with me today.”

Robins’ research likewise garnered recognition. He gained status as a most-cited author within certain topics of economics and published studies in premier industry journals.

“Phil has a very impressive and long career in many different aspects of economics,” says David Card, department of economics chairman at Berkley and an early colleague of the professor. “His best-known work is one that I teach in one of my classes because it is such a compelling example of what economists can bring to the table,” he says, referring to Robins’ 1991 study on the consequences of divorce.

Kosar and Card were among the familiar faces that Robins was surprised to see at a virtual meeting in late April. One week before his final day at Miami Herbert, as he prepared to leave his position and quietly enter retirement, Robins attended what he thought would be his last department meeting. Instead, he discovered that faculty, colleagues, former students, friends, and family members had gathered to celebrate his reputable tenure.

The event included reflections by several of the attendees. Current Miami Herbert Department of Economics Chairman Manuel Santos, for instance, recalled that Robins once held his position, serving as department chairman from 1988 to 1997.

“Phil has been my guide as chair,” Santos said. “I don’t think any other colleague has offered me as much guidance as he has. He has represented our school on many important fronts and the department is very grateful.”

His wife and four children spoke of his dedication to teaching and family. His son, Jason Robbins, co-founder and CEO of the leading online sports entertainment company DraftKings, also recalled attending almost all Hurricanes football and baseball games while growing up.

“The U is really the first place that taught me what it was like to be a fan of sports and to love sports on a deep level,” the sports entrepreneur stated.

The younger Robins then announced the day’s biggest revelation: the creation of the Philip K. Robins Chair of Economics, giving perpetuity to the professor’s legacy and enabling Miami Herbert to attract top faculty and spearhead new research.

“This is a tribute to the tradition of caring and dedicated teaching that Dr. Robins helped create and that the Chair will perpetuate by providing funds for salaried research,” he said.

Miami Herbert Dean John Quelch emphasized the faculty’s sense of gratitude for Robins’ devotion to the business school.

“Someone who has contributed 39 years to an institution, which is almost half of the life of this business school, has clearly had an extraordinary impact in shaping the values and culture,” he said. “To be a professor is about more than being a classroom teacher and researcher; it is about collegiality, and Phil has manifested a spirit of collegiality that has provided a level of social glue in this department and in this school for almost four decades.”

As the event came to a close, a moved Robins expressed his appreciation. “The University of Miami has given me the opportunity to flourish. The combination of research, teaching, and my love of sports, and sharing that with my children, has been a dream. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it,” he reflected.

Santos will be the first faculty member to hold the Philip K. Robins Chair endowment, enabled by the Robins family gift, which has been matched by the Knight Foundation.

“We are grateful for the very generous gift,” said Casey Supple, executive director of development and alumni relations. “To be able to retain a leading academic in economics is important to us and we value that it came from a UM family that shows how much they care about the business school and the institution.”

As Professor Robins begins his retirement, enjoying time with his family including eight grandchildren, he remains an emeritus professor and now an emblem of teaching and dedication that will live on at Miami Herbert.