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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Janet Yellen's High School Friends Remember Her As Brilliant And Imperturbable

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    Where do Fed chairs come from?
    You could answer this a number of ways, but many come from the Tri-state area.
    Janet Yellen, whom President Obama will name as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve this afternoon, will be numbered among them, assuming she is confirmed by the Senate.
    Born in 1946, Yellen (who kept her name after she married) attended Fort Hamilton High School in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn.  
    We tracked down two of her high school classmates to talk about what it was like growing up with her.
    "A classic '60s liberal," said Charles Saydah, a retired journalist who served with Yellen on the school paper (Yellen was editor in chief), and also ran in the same social circles. "She has great faith in education as an answer to a lot of societal problems."
    Susan Grosart, a retired school committee chair in Massachusetts, said she met Yellen in 7th grade when they were both "special progress" students, a program that let gifted youngsters breeze through junior high in two years.
    Describing Yellen as "adventuresome," Grosart said they would attend Sunday afternoon concerts at Lincoln Center and ride the cyclone on Coney Island. boosters janet yellen"Janet was pretty interested in everything."
    At the same time, she appears to have lacked, at least outwardly, the attitude one might associate with other famous baby boomer Brooklynites.

    "She was quiet, she was imperturbable," Saydah said. "She never seemed to get openly excited about anything...a lot of us objected to things."

    He said he could have seen her becoming a fellow journalist, and Grosart described Yellen being enamored with English, as well as biology.

    biology janet yellenBut after one taste of economics, her fate was sealed.

    Grosart recalls seeing Yellen after they'd completed their first semester at college— Yellen attended Pembroke, the then-women's section of Brown University — and she mentioned she'd taken an economics class.

    "She was like, on fire," Grosart said.

    "She just loved economics from the first minute she started studying it. She lectured me continually about different economic topics, and you could just tell she'd found her passion."

    Both agreed her success was totally predictable. 

    Indeed, she was named a "Senior Celebrity" and "Class Scholar" her final year at Fort Hamilton. 

    "She was the kind of person you'd expect to do this sort of thing," he said. "I wouldn't say she was definitely going to be leading the Fed, but it's not surprising. There was something about her."

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