Remembering William D. Shipman, Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus

William D. Shipman

William D. Shipman

In a letter to the Bowdoin community, President Clayton Rose remembers William D. Shipman, Bowdoin’s Adams-Catlin Professor of Economics Emeritus, who died April 10, 2016, at the age of 90.

To the Bowdoin community,

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. Stu Roberts says:

    Bill Shipman was my neighbor and Professor from 74-78. He opened my eyes to the study of Economics and I knew I was never as smart as he was. As his neighbor I think he may have disapproved of having crazed college students living so close to his young family. Thanks Bill for implanting the concept of cost/benefit analysis into my daily life. You were a great Professor and made me work harder in your class than any other class at Bowdoin.

  2. Jordan DeCoster says:

    Lived across the street from Bill and Alison when I was a little kid. I spent a lot of afternoons playing in their yard and with their dogs. He was one of the people who made growing up in Bowdoin’s community wonderful. Deepest condolences to his family.

  3. ed grady '74 says:

    I was fortunate enough to take a class at Bowdoin with Bill and enjoyed him and the class tremendously. He was one of the nicest people I met at Bowdoin and a class act. He’ll certainly be missed, but not forgotten.

  4. chuck dyer '59 says:

    What a terrific Professor! I’m sorry I never sought him out since moving back to Brunswick 4 years ago. A low-key but extremely bright fellow, and I loved the one course I took from him in 1964-1965.

  5. He was my inspiration to study economics. A wonderful professor.

  6. Eric Weis says:

    Professor Shipman was my advisor, mentor and most beloved Ec professor. I’m sure it was he who convinced me to adopt Ec as my major. One summer we were neighbors. He steered me in a great direction. I always looked forward to our meetings in his Hubbard Hall office. My condolences go to his family and others who, like me, remember him fondly.

  7. Stephen H. Burns '60 says:

    Even though I took his introduction to economics to satisfy a social science requirement, I found that I enjoyed it, and it was one of the few non-physics and non-math courses in which I earned an honest A. I have recommended economics to many of my students and advisees in my teaching career.

  8. Maria Libby '86 says:

    As an Economics major I was fortunate enough to have Professor Shipman on more than one occasion and then lived in the apartment above his garage on Federal Street my senior year. He was an incredibly kind, gentle, and gracious man. My thoughts are with his family.

  9. Bob Armstrong, '71 says:

    Dr. Shipman was an engaging professor who really focused in on what made sense in economics. His teachings helped me throughout my career.

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