Marvin Smith

The 2017 recipient of the Alumni Citation for Excellence in Economics, His citation, presented May 20, 2017, appears below:


Marty Smith’s career as an economic analyst has followed an upward trajectory that has propelled him and his work into the highest orbits of government service, banking, and public affairs. With master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Cornell University, Marty began informing public policy issues as a research associate at the Brookings Institution. The defense policy study examining representative populations in the armed forces that he helped conduct, published in 1982 under the title Blacks and the Military, remains a landmark resource of political, social, and national security significance.   

As a principal analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, he conducted a number of studies that influenced congressional debates that led to momentous decisions, such as reducing the size of U.S. military academies, developing a bonus system as a way to retain military pilots who otherwise would opt for more lucrative jobs in the commercial airlines industry, and establishing an accrual accounting fund for retired military compensation and survivor benefits. For the Chairman of the House Armed Services, this system represented a much-anticipated change in the way the military accounted for retirement pay.

And as a senior community-development economic advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Marty spearheaded a five-year, multi-million-dollar study on the effectiveness of pre-purchase homeownership counseling that has proven to be pivotal to financial institutions, policymakers and academics, and economically life-changing to those consumers who participated in the study. Even those who ultimately opted out of home ownership improved their credit worthiness and financial literacy. The Department of Housing and Urban Development cited his study in its decision to allocate $36 million in grants to hundreds of organizations specializing in pre-purchase homeownership counseling, and the international community validated the strength of this experimental design study when he was invited to present his findings at an international symposium at the University of Cambridge in England.

He has examined the role of race in subprime lending, and the impact of housing rehabilitation in declining neighborhoods. Now, in the wake of the Great Recession, the home foreclosure crisis has come under Marty’s scrutiny. Co-edited with Susan Wachter, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, his newest volume: The American Mortgage System: Crisis and Reform, brings together a collection of thoughtful studies offering solutions to the problems facing the future of American home ownership — including identifying asset price bubbles, calculating risk, and preventing discrimination in lending.

We are honored to welcome back to campus a former campus leader, an outstanding scholar-athlete, and pioneering member of the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame who holds a unique place in our history as the only survivor among the first four African-Americans to graduate from WC. In recognition of his significant contributions to the field of economics, and on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation from Washington College, we are delighted to present to Dr. Marvin M. Smith the Alumni Citation for Excellence in Economics.