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Krannert alum recaps Levitt visit

Felix Lukose and Steven Levitt
Felix Lukose BSA '10 and Professor Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics

The reception before the dinner was buzzing. Looking around, the room was jam-packed with people I would consider “the heavy hitters” of Purdue and Krannert. It was also a night when I had one of the best 5-6 minute conversations of my life, with a complete stranger. Professor Steven Levitt’s presence was what brought all these distinguished individuals back to the Purdue campus.

When seats were taken in the ballroom by the approximately 525 attendees ranging from faculty to students to business leaders, the event formally started with the Krannert Awards Presentation. As a recent graduate (May 2010), these awards epitomized the leaders and decision makers throughout the country that either studied in the same halls as I did or has a strong sense of Boilermaker pride regardless of their alma maters. Events such as these not only shape our never-ending education, they spur the thought-entrepreneur in all of us. These are the people I aspire to and to be in their presence was a blessing.

After a most delicious dinner and a final award, President Córdova
introduced the keynote speaker, Professor Steven Levitt. Even if Time magazine didn’t name him one of the 2006 “Top 100 People Who Shape Our World,” anyone who has ever read Freakonomics or Superfreakonomics would recognize that he is one of the premiere thought leaders of this generation. For an economist, his messages were delightfully clear and simple. He began with the impact of incentives on solving even complex issues that in hindsight were blaringly obvious. Prof. Levitt continued by telling us his goal of challenging conventional wisdom with data, by looking at problems in a slightly different angle. He concluded with the difficulty involved with justifying conducting research with a prostitute.

Prof. Levitt was not only a tremendous speaker, but also a lasting inspiration. Though he may have never gone into business, he is everything that is an entrepreneur. He is someone that set out to be a “real” economist but had never seen a partial derivative until first day of PhD education at MIT. Inspired by his father’s advice, he decided he wasn’t going to be the best economist. So he set forth in creating a field in which he serves as the foremost expert.

If I knew that I would eventually meet Prof. Levitt and get my copy of Freakonomics signed, I would have gotten the hardcover. After waiting in line, it was finally my turn. He simply looked up, remembered me by name, and wrote me a message completely related to our conversation from nearly three hours and hundreds of conversations ago. For someone called the “Indiana Jones” of Economics by the Wall Street Journal and author of millions of copies of bestsellers, Prof. Levitt was human. More importantly, a human testament to the extraordinary capability within all of us.

Felix Lukose
Purdue Class of 2010
Orr Fellowship Class of 2010
Junior Analyst
Teays River Investments