A year and a half after his death, a Nobel laureate’s legacy lives on.
Thomas Schelling won the Nobel prize in economics in 2005 for his work on game theory in relation to conflict resolution and avoiding war. He died at age 95 in 2016. Last week, his family auctioned off his medal and donated the $187,000 in proceeds to a cause close to his heart.
“Tom, a most rational man, was also someone who felt empathy, especially towards those whom he perceived to be unjustly treated,” his widow, Alice Schelling, said in a statement. “For that reason, he and I have been longtime supporters of the Southern Poverty Law Center and it was Tom’s wish that his Nobel medal be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to the SPLC. Hate and extremism should have no place in our country.”
The 18-karat medal was sold by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.
Schelling was considered one of the foremost experts in game theory regarding nuclear arms strategy.
According to Sanders Auctions, the medal has “T.C. SCHELLING MMV” engraved to the rim, and the medal’s reverse contains the north star emblem of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with the phrase ”Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien” applied.
Proceeds from the medal were donated to the the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit organization that combats bigotry and advocates for vulnerable populations.
Richard Cohen, president of SPLC, said, “I’m a longtime admirer of Thomas Schelling and his intellect. My colleagues and I are deeply grateful to have his support and that of his wife in our work to end hate and bigotry.”
Schelling was born in California in 1921 to a naval officer and a school teacher. After getting his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, Schelling served overseas with the Marshall Plan and then in the White House under the Truman administration.
Schelling’s colleagues said they weren’t surprised to hear that the distinguished economist continued to support social justice after his death.
Maureen Cropper, chairwoman of the economics department at the University of Maryland, where Schelling worked for more than a decade, called the donation “fitting.”
“The topics that he worked on are all topics that remain relevant today and the fact that he was working on them in the middle of the last century almost really does show the fact that he was a very broad thinker as well as a very deep thinker,” said Cropper, who spoke at his memorial service.