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Economist with ringside seat

By Rushworth M. KidderStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 23, 1986



Shortly before joining General Motors in 1979 as a vice-president and chief economist, says Marina Whitman, ``my husband had run out of gas looking for gas. I should have realized that life would never be the same. What I walked into was probably the biggest economic or industrial revolution - and in some ways the biggest social phenomenon - of the late 20th century.'' Her career as an economist had prepared her for the task of helping to revitalize the nation's largest manufacturer. Dr. Whitman, the daughter of mathematician John von Neumann, a father of the modern computer, graduated from Radcliffe in 1956 at the top of her class. After earning a PhD in economics from Columbia University, she taught economics from 1962 to 1979 at the University of Pittsburgh, where her husband teaches English.

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Appointed by President Nixon as one of three members of his Council of Economic Advisers, she has also been associated with the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and a number of other academic, government, and advisory organizations. The author of a number of books and articles on international economic theory, she has conducted a weekly television program on economics that was carried on 180 public broadcasting stations.

In 1985 Whitman was promoted to vice-president in charge of GM's public affairs staff group - where, as an economist friend recently wrote her, she has ``a ringside seat'' for watching the international economy.