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Perry Beaumont

Perry Beaumont

Lecturer, Columbia U | Head of data and actuarial science, Distinguished Programs

The irresistible pizza wasn’t the only allure of Papa Del’s to '80s grad student and future Ivy League lecturer Perry Beaumont.

The top three reasons it’s the spot that comes to mind first when the two-degree grad reflects on his Illini experience:

1. Location — “just close enough to campus to be an easy walk, yet far enough away to feel removed from the halls of academia.”

2. The staff — “who politely tolerated irrationally skewed ratios of time spent versus dollars expended.”

3. The company — ”lively intellectual debates with classmates that seemed to more naturally evolve into higher plains of academic rigor when fueled by delicious deep dish pizza accompanied with seemingly endless pitchers of beer.

“In brief, the inimitable blend of these can be said to have served as the catalyst for at least one doctoral dissertation, and one patent. I’ll explain ...

“A standard requirement of most dissertations is that they make some type of unique contribution to existing literature. In 1985, the notion of a single currency for Europe was a topic of discussion in economics, though it would take another 15 years for the idea to be implemented with the launch of the Euro in January  of 1999.

“One aspect of economic theory not yet fully developed at the time was how a diminishing number of national monetary policies — from many into one as embodied with a single currency, along with a continuation of many fiscal policies, as Italy, Germany, France and other Euro members would continue to pursue separate national spending programs — would potentially affect the efficacy of disparate economic policy instruments inclusive of interest rates, exchange rates, tax rates, etcetera.

“It was over one particular confab at Papa Del’s that not only was a model proposed to provide a context for evaluating economic instruments and targets — later published in a Ph.D. thesis — but foundations of an analytical framework to isolate and measure respective policy contributions was also developed, which later became incorporated into a U.S. patent.

“With a rationale that I am at a complete loss to recreate today, but that burst forth as an epiphany in the moment, there somehow surfaced the rationale for a premise of building upon the ‘logic’ of pairing particular pizza dishes and ingredients — as in calzones and the single ingredient of ricotta, versus deep dish that more optimally combines multiple flavors as with pepperoni, sausage and more — which could also be extended to principles underlying GDP and deficits, or balance and payments and currencies, interest rates and more.

“Well before the Internet’s arrival and existence of chat rooms and the networks of social media, there were weekly Wednesday night dinners at Papa Del’s, where young minds could explore new ideas in an uninhibited and collaborative way.

“In Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From,’ he writes that ‘It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that the individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.’

"In the late '80s, Papa Del’s was the venue that made it possible for certain aspiring economists to have a network that represented a welcome and embracing oasis not too far away from the chalkdust and straight-backed wooden desks of David Kinley Hall, to pose questions and find answers that otherwise may not have ever been explored.”