William D. Shipman

William D. Shipman, Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus and a member of the Bowdoin faculty from 1957-1991, died on April 10, 2016, in Seattle, Washington.

(The following notice was shared by President Rose on April 20, 2016)

It is my sad duty to report to the Bowdoin community that William D. Shipman, Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus at the College, died on April 10, 2016, in Seattle, Washington, at the age of 90. He leaves a remarkable legacy of teaching, scholarship, and public service.

Born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, on November 15, 1925, Bill Shipman graduated from Glenbard High School there. After serving in the U.S. Army for three years during World War II, he attended Michigan State University for two years and graduated from the University of Washington in 1949 with an A.B. degree. He earned an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950, and a Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1960. Bill worked as an economist with the Office of Price Stabilization in Seattle, in 1951 and 1952, and as an investment analyst for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York City from 1953 to 1957.

Professor Shipman joined the Bowdoin faculty in l957, and he was promoted to the rank of assistant professor two years later. His areas of interest included industrial organization and public policy, the economics of energy, transportation systems, U.S. economic history, and the complex economic relationships between the U.S. and Canada over energy issues. In l964, he was named associate professor, and in 1969 he became a full professor and Bowdoin’s first Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics. During the l962-63 academic year, Professor Shipman held a Brookings Research professorship, investigating the effect of nuclear power on national and regional energy costs. He spent the l966-67 academic year in England at the University of Cambridge conducting research into British and continental transportation systems.

He co-authored Energy Policy for the State of Maine in 1973, a landmark work and one of the first state-level energy resource studies undertaken in the United States. He served as a consultant to the Federal Power Commission, the New England Regional Commission, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission. His report on alternative proposals for electric power development in Maine was published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Bill understood the nuances of history, economic interest, and potential outcomes of policy decisions, and he had an ability to discuss these issues in a clear and even-handed way. These traits made Professor Shipman a sought-after member for numerous state-level commissions on energy issues, taxation, and industrial stabilization.

In 1994, Trustee Emeritus Stanley F. Druckenmiller ’75, H’​07 established an endowed fund to support the activities and research of the William D. Shipman Professor of Economics to honor “Professor Shipman’s clarity of thought, his enthusiasm for his subject, and his generosity of spirit [which] inspired generations of Bowdoin students in economics.” According to Stan, “Bill Shipman…opened my eyes to a whole new discipline and changed my life forever. Despite not taking economics until my junior year, [I found that] Professor Shipman’s initial course was so stimulating I crammed enough courses over the next three semesters to major in the subject.”

At Bowdoin, Professor Shipman served as chair of the Department of Economics, and he was a thoughtful voice on committees, the oversight responsibilities of which covered the important work of the College, including the development of the Senior Center program in the 1960s and the transition to coeducation. As an engaged citizen, he served as a trustee of the Brunswick Savings Institution and as chair of Brunswicks Planning Board from 1961-63. His was a respected voice in the classroom, among his colleagues, and in the arena of public policy.

Professor Shipman had many interests and passions, including antique cars and architectural history. On more than one occasion, he donned a chauffeur’s cap and gave newlyweds a ride in his 1938 Buick. From 1960 until 1991, he and his wife, Alison, lived in the Parker Cleaveland House on Federal Street, which they restored to its original grandeur. The house is now the official residence of the College president. In undertaking the restoration, Bill engaged in extensive research, which yielded a book, The Early Architecture of Bowdoin College and Brunswick, Maine (1973, revised in 1985, and recognized with a special award from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in 1974). It remains an authoritative source on local architecture and history. He also co-authored a chapter on Federal and Greek Revival architecture in Maine Forms of American Architecture, edited by Deborah Thompson and published in l976.

Memorial arrangements are pending and will be conveyed to the Bowdoin community when they become available.

Bill is survived by his wife, Alison Morse Shipman, whom he married in 1955; a son, Hugh M. Shipman (Michele Manber) of Seattle; a daughter, Jane Shipman Kiker (Rob Kiker) of Seattle; and three grandchildren. We join them in celebrating Bill’s life and his spirit, and we extend to them our sympathy and our gratitude for sharing him with the Bowdoin community.

1 Comment William D. Shipman

  1. Dave Prouty

    Bill Shipman was a class act. I took several classes from him in the late 1970s and thoroughly enjoyed each one. But my favorite memory actually involves something he didn’t do. At his encouragement, I had applied to spend my junior year at the London School of Economics. He coordinated the program for Bowdoin and wrote me a recommendation. Unfortunately, LSE was swamped with applications that year and let him know that they would only be able to take one Bowdoin student. He called me in and explained extremely apologetically how he had decided the only fair means of selecting a student was to rank all the Bowdoin applicants by GPA. Under that system, I ended up second, so another student got to go. As it turned out, I spent that junior year at UC Berkeley (not a bad economics program itself), and came back to tell Prof. Shipman what a great experience it had been. He was extremely pleased and relieved and I remember several nice chats after that with him during my senior year. I will always remember his kindness and fairness, even if he couldn’t deliver on my year in London. Please give his family my condolences and tell them what a great professor and person he was.


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