Rebecca Blank dies at 67; renowned economist led the University of Wisconsin

Rebecca Blank was president-elect of Northwestern University last year when a cancer diagnosis led her to step down. She was an advisor to three U.S. presidents.

SHARE Rebecca Blank dies at 67; renowned economist led the University of Wisconsin
FILE - University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank walks in a procession at the start of the spring commencement ceremony in Madison, Wisc., May 16, 2015. Blank died Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, the university said, less than a year after announcing that she had an aggressive form of cancer. She was 67. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File) ORG XMIT: WIMAW201

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank walks in a procession at the start of the spring commencement ceremony in Madison, on May 16, 2015. Blank held senior posts in the Commerce Department under President Obama.

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MADISON, Wis. — Rebecca Blank, an economist who served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has died, less than a year after announcing that she had an aggressive form of cancer. She was 67.

Blank’s illness forced her to step aside last July from a new job as president of Northwestern University.

“Becky was a transformational leader for UW–Madison, serving during challenging times,” said Provost Karl Scholz, the school’s chief academic officer. “Early in her tenure, she helped navigate difficult budget cuts; late in her tenure, the COVID pandemic. She was wise and decisive.”

Blank died Friday, the university said.

She was chancellor in Madison from 2013 to 2022. Blank was credited with creating Bucky’s Tuition Promise — named after the school’s Badger mascot — which guarantees scholarships and grants for students whose household income is $65,000 or less.

She announced her cancer diagnosis last July, just weeks after leaving Wisconsin.

“I do not have the words to express to you how disappointed and sad I am to be telling you this,” Blank said. “I was excited to be joining you at Northwestern, a world-class institution that is near and dear to my heart.”

She had been an economics professor at Northwestern earlier in her career.

Blank’s career also included government service under Republican and Democratic presidents. She held senior posts in the Commerce Department under President Barack Obama.

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