MDRC Mourns the Passing of Rebecca Blank, Long-Time MDRC Board Member

The Board of Directors and the staff of MDRC mourn the untimely passing of Rebecca “Becky” Blank, a member of MDRC’s Board of Directors in 1993-1997, 2000-2009, and 2019-2023. Blank lived a life of public service as an economist, an educator, a leader in higher education, and a government official. She died of cancer on February 17 near Madison, Wisconsin.

Blank earned her Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As an economist, Blank focused on low-income labor markets and the measurement and alleviation of poverty. She held academic appointments at Princeton, Northwestern, and the University of Michigan, where she served as Dean of Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

She served on the Council of Economic Advisors during the Clinton Administration. During the Obama Administration, she joined the Department of Commerce as the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, where she oversaw the 2010 Census. She later became the Deputy Secretary and the Acting Secretary of Commerce.

In 2013, she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a position she held until 2022. In 2022, she was named the President of Northwestern University, but she withdrew when she received a diagnosis of cancer.

“With the passing of Becky Blank, the country has lost a wonderful public servant,” said MDRC President Virginia Knox. “As a member of MDRC’s Board of Directors, Becky provided incisive advice that was informed by her commitment to advancing economic opportunity for people with low incomes in the United States, to informing policy decisions with high-quality evidence, and to supporting the well-being of MDRC’s staff. It has been a privilege to work with her.”

Becky Blank is survived by her husband, Hanns Kuttner, and her daughter, Emily Kuttner. MDRC extends its sympathies to Becky’s family and friends.