Arts Meets Science and Chemistry Wins the DayPaul Romer
Forgive Paul M. Romer for turning two of the greatest days of his life into a one-day event. He was just being economical.
Mr. Romer, who was until January the chief economist of the World Bank in Washington, was married Monday to Caroline Weber, an author and full professor of French Literature at Barnard College, Columbia, in a celebration ceremony at the Anglican Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid in Stockholm.
The bride, radiant in an aqua-colored caftan by Oscar de la Renta, and groom, stately in white tie and tails, exchanged ceremonial vows before the Rev. Nicholas Howe, an Anglican priest, and 16 family members, including the couple’s parents, as well as five of Mr. Romer’s six siblings and both of his children.
Later in the day, the couple arrived at the Stockholm Concert Hall for a different kind of reception, one filled with celebratory applause and presentation speeches, a diploma and a medal that His Majesty, the King of Sweden, gave Mr. Romer, who is a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
“This came as a total surprise,” said Mr. Romer, 63, who learned he had won the coveted award in the quiet of an October morning at the Greenwich Village apartment he shares with Ms. Weber, 49, who was sound asleep when the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences called with the news.
“I kind of nudged Caroline and said, ‘Um, sweetie, I just won the Nobel Prize in economics,’ and she woke up immediately and was very excited,” said Mr. Romer, who also learned that William D. Nordhaus, 77, a member of the economics faculty at Yale, was also a winner of the award.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Ms. Weber said. “I was absolutely thrilled for him.”
According to the Swedish Academy, Mr. Romer earned his Nobel, more specifically, “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” (Mr. Nordhaus won “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.”)
“On a personal level, one of the most interesting things about winning the Nobel is how happy it made so many people I know,” said Mr. Romer, who is currently on a leave of absence from N.Y.U., where he is a University Professor of Economics.
“From colleagues at N.Y.U., to the woman who runs the dry cleaner’s where I take my clothes, to the doorman down the street who always gives my dogs’ treats, everyone just seemed so thrilled for me,” he said. “That was something I didn’t anticipate.”
In 2011, Mr. Romer founded the N.Y.U. Stern Urbanization Project, which works with rapidly-growing cities to make room for their inevitable expansion.
Two years later, he found Ms. Weber.
“She helped me discover a side of myself that was hidden,” he said. “And she has exposed me to a part of intellectual life that I’ve had little professional exposure to.”
On Dec. 18, they are to be legally married at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, which seemed unlikely given the circumstances of their first official meeting five-and-a-half years ago.
In May 2013, Ms. Weber and Mr. Romer were introduced at a Manhattan restaurant as part of a blind date arranged by Donald Marron, the former chairman and chief executive of Paine Webber, and his wife, Catherine.
For Ms. Weber, whose first marriage had ended in divorce, it wasn’t quite love at first sight.
“I had the distinct feeling I had met Paul before,” she said. “I just couldn’t figure out when or where I had seen him.”
Nevertheless, they hit it off, and after dessert, Mr. Romer was walking Ms. Weber to her home in Greenwich Village, when he turned to her and said, “Thanks for being so discreet about how I had asked you out before.”
Ms. Weber was initially taken aback, but then it all started coming back. She soon remembered having met Mr. Romer three months earlier at a pizzeria-restaurant in Manhattan.
“We were both sitting at the bar, late-night, grading papers,” she said. “We started chatting, and I thought he was very handsome, but I was dating someone at that time.”
Before leaving that night, Mr. Romer asked Ms. Weber for her email address for the purpose of sending her information about a public lecture he was scheduled to give at N.Y.U.
“I thought she was very attractive, very outgoing and ferociously smart,” Mr. Romer said. “But I remember looking into her eyes as she handed me her email address and thinking, ‘She’s never going to contact me.’”
His instincts were correct, as Ms. Weber had decided to move on, but through some quirk of fate, they were back in each other’s orbit just three months later, with the Marrons joining them for dinner to help lighten the atmosphere.
Mr. Romer’s matchmaker had already given him one gift, a donation which breathed into life the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University — Mr. Romer is its former director. The institute works with cities and other jurisdictions to improve the provision of local services and effect positive social change.
By reintroducing Mr. Romer to Ms. Weber, who was now unattached, Mr. Marron gave him more than just another gift.
“He gave me a miracle,” said Mr. Romer, who still has the scrap of paper on which Ms. Weber scrawled her email address. “Who gets two chances at the same miracle?”
They began dating immediately, each fascinated by the other’s credentials in an arts meets science kind of way.
Ms. Weber learned that Mr. Romer, who graduated from the University of Chicago, from which he also received a Ph.D. in economics, is one of seven children born to Beatrice Miller Romer and Roy R. Romer of Denver.
His father, 90, once served as governor of Colorado, and was also head of the Democratic National Committee when Bill Clinton was president. He later became the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a consultant to the College Board, based in Washington.
Ms. Weber, who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in French Literature at Yale, said of the younger Mr. Romer that she was “immediately struck by his incredible intelligence.”
“I had never been interested in or particularly savvy about economics,” she said. “I had briefly worked on Wall Street after college as a very unhappy and unsuccessful investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, but I had never really followed the economy.
“Yet I was really struck by how fluent Paul was in making the economic issues that are of interest to him relevant to contemporary considerations, and relevant to history and to human technological and human cultural development.”
The more she spoke of him, the softer her voice became, her tone drifting from scholarly to lovingly.
“He was also a very kind, very decent, incredibly principled person whose moral compass was front and center,” she said. “He was someone who completely accepted me for who I am, with all my quirks and foibles.”
Mr. Romer was equally impressed with Ms. Weber, the only daughter of Carol C. Weber and Russell J. Weber of Charlottesville, Va., whose parents are both retired professors of organizational behavior at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
He was quick to point out that her latest book, “Proust’s Duchess,” was published in May (Knopf) to flattering reviews, and was wowed by the fact that she taught her college courses — on such topics as 17th and 18th Century French theater and the literature and philosophy of the Enlightenment — while speaking French.
Mr. Romer, whose first two marriages ended in divorce, said that Ms. Weber “helped me discover things about myself that I didn’t know.”
“She taught me that I had more of a sense of humor than I had really known, and that I also I have this love of words that I really didn’t know was there.”
“I’m mildly dyslexic and I’ve always had trouble spelling,” he said. “I never thought of myself as a word person, or a writer, I was always more comfortable with mathematics, but Caroline helped me appreciate words through verbal interactions, and now I love words, I love the shadings that can generate humor and I love a well-crafted phrase, that was the side of myself that had been hidden.”
In September 2013, four months after they had reconnected, Mr. Romer and Ms. Weber journeyed together to N.Y.U.’s campus in Shanghai, China, where Mr. Romer had agreed to teach economics for a semester.
“That was one of our big adventures early on,” said Ms. Weber, who went on a sabbatical to be with him. “It was also a big test of our relationship as we were living in a country where neither of us spoke the language, which made some things difficult, but I’m grateful to have had that experience.”
Three years later, a more painful experience during a long-distance period in their lives brought them closer together.
In November 2016, just a few weeks after Mr. Romer had gone to the World Bank in Washington, Ms. Weber was walking their three dogs — they now have four — when two of the bigger ones began pulling her in the direction of another dog.
“Just as this is happening, a bicycle comes flying by,” Ms. Weber said. “It was just a perfect storm of awfulness that resulted in me tearing all the ligaments in both of my knees.”
Mr. Romer rushed back to New York by train, and found Ms. Weber in a hospital emergency room, still in much pain.
“Poor thing,” he said, “it was really tough to see her in that position.”
He began commuting from Washington every weekend to be by her side, and she has since recovered after two full years of physical therapy, just in time to celebrate two of the biggest days of her life, which, like his, happened on the same day.
“On our way to pick up Paul’s Nobel Prize, we’re stopping off to get married,” said Ms. Weber, laughing as she spoke, just before heading to Sweden.
She, too, had found her own economical miracle.