Thorp, Willard Long, 1899-1992

Alternative names
Birth 1899-05-24
Death 1992

Biographical notes:


Willard Thorp was born in Oswego, New York in 1899. He was the son of Charles Nicholas Thorp (a Congregational minister) and Susan Long Thorp. Thorp spent his early life in Oswego, Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Duluth, Minnesota. He entered Amherst College in 1916. After an interruption to serve as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1918 (in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), he graduated from Amherst in 1920. Thorp then taught economics at the University of Michigan while obtaining his master's degree in that field. Upon completion of his degree (1921), he became an instructor at Amherst College, noting later that he ended up teaching men who had been his fellow students in 1920. Between 1922 and 1924 he completed the doctoral program in economics at Columbia University and then joined the research staff at the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1927, he became one of the youngest-perhaps the youngest-tenured professor in the United States when he rejoined the Economics Department at Amherst College.

In 1933, Thorp began his long and varied career as a government servant. Appointed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in August, 1933, as Director of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Thorp served in this capacity until May, 1934, when his nomination to that post was blocked in the Senate for political reasons. In spite of this disappointment, Thorp continued to play a role in the Roosevelt administration's program of economic recovery from the Great Depression. Between 1933 and 1938, he served with and was consultant to a number of federal agencies and boards, including the Federal Alcohol Control Administration, the National Recovery Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Emergency Council. In 1935, he also became Director of Economic Research at Dunn and Bradstreet and was the founding editor of Dunn's Review . While at Dunn and Bradstreet, he became an advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Harry Hopkins, and represented the Commerce Department on the Temporary National Economic Committee. From 1940-1945, he was tapped by the Federal court to help oversee the reorganization of the bankrupt Associated Gas Electric System. Federal authorities were anxious to avoid a complete breakdown of the sprawling, 26,000-employee system. In 1945, Thorp was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. In 1946, while still serving as the Chairman of the Board of the newly-reorganized General Public Utilities (formerly Associated Gas and Electric), Thorp was promoted to Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs and became deeply involved in negotiating U.S. economic policy in postwar Europe. He served in this post until 1952. Thorp was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Treaty Conference (1946) and an advisor at the New York meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers the same year. He represented the U.S. on the United Nations Economic and Social Council (1947-1950) and at negotiations of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (1950-1952). A primary focus of his work was the development, promotion, and implementation of the Marshall Plan, a massive program of economic assistance initiated by the U.S. State Department in 1947 to facilitate the economic recovery of Western Europe and to strengthen European capitalist democracies. In 1949, Thorp also became responsible for development of the Point IV program of technical assistance to industrially underdeveloped countries.

Thorp appears to have performed his very public duties with aplomb. His appearance was so relaxed that he was sometimes perceived as approaching critical issues "too casually." A 1949 sketch of Thorp in the United Nations World countered this impression by summarizing the view of an unnamed Thorp colleague: Thorp's "air of seeming relaxation is deceptive,… he has a mind of steel-spring tension which makes him one of the most brilliant and effective performers in public life, here and abroad" (May 1949: 54).

Thorp left government service in 1952 and returned to the Economics Department at Amherst College. Although involved in teaching, Thorp almost immediately embraced a new role as Director of the Merrill Center for Economics. Sponsored by Amherst College and located at the former estate of Charles Edward Merrill (AC 1908) in Southampton, New York, the Merrill Center's summer sessions brought economists, policy-makers, and business executives from the U.S. and abroad to discuss economic issues in a relaxed setting. During this time, Thorp was also serving on the Amherst College Board of Trustees (1942-1955) and in 1957 he served for a number of weeks as interim president of the college. In addition, he served on the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University from 1956-1962.

In 1960, Thorp was asked by the United Nations to conduct an economic survey of the newly-independent Republic of Cyprus, and, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked him to head the President's Special Study Mission to Bolivia. The Merrill Center had in the meantime ceased operations. Following on these assignments, Kennedy appointed Thorp Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). After repeatedly requesting relief from his teaching duties at Amherst, he retired from teaching in 1965 and continued his work as Chair of the Development Assistance Committee for another two years. He continued to pursue numerous professional and policy-related activities into the 1970s. During his career, Thorp also authored a number of books and articles on economic topics.

From 1956 to the early 1960s, Thorp's experience with anti-trust law led to his work as an expert consultant on several high-profile cases involving price-fixing and price gouging by oil companies and electrical equipment manufacturers. During his retirement, Thorp served for several years on the Pelham (Mass.) Finance Committee and as Town Treasurer. In 1947, Thorp married Clarice F. Brows, who had been a staff attorney with Associated Gas and Electric. After their marriage, Clarice Brows Thorp became his assistant and accompanied him on most of his foreign assignments. Thorp was previously married to Hildegarde Ellen Churchill, with whom he raised three children. Willard Thorp died in 1992.

  • 1899 May 24: Born in Oswego, NY
  • ca. 1905 - 1915 : Schooling in Duluth, MN; Chelsea, MA
  • 1916: Enrolled at Amherst College
  • 1918 Jul - 1918 Dec : Served as second lieutenant in World War I (stationed in Pittsburgh, PA)
  • 1920: Bachelor's degree from Amherst College
  • 1921: Master's degree in economics from the University of Michigan (Thesis: "Correlation and the Price of Coal"); Instructor in Economics
  • 1921 - 1922 : Instructor in Economics at Amherst College
  • 1923: Joined research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research
  • 1924: Completed doctorate in economics from Columbia University (Dissertation: "The Integration of Industrial Operation")
  • 1925: Chief Statistician for the New York State Board of Housing
  • 1926: Published Business Annals
  • 1926 - 1934 : Professor of Economics at Amherst College; in 1927, reported to have become youngest tenured professor in U.S.
  • 1928 - 1929 : Lecturer, Mount Holyoke College
  • 1932 - 1935 : Visiting Examiner, Swarthmore College
  • 1933: Director, Wellesley Summer Institute
  • ca. 1933 - 1934 : Served on six-member committee that created the Reciprocal Trade Act
  • 1933 - 1934 : Director, U.S. Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce (did not receive Congressional approval for appointment to post)
  • 1933 - 1935 : One of the original members of the Federal Alcohol Control Administration
  • 1934: Director of the Consumer Division of the National Emergency Council
  • 1935: Honorary L.L.D. degree from Marietta College, OH
  • 1934 - 1935 : Chairman, Advisory Council, National Recovery Administration
  • 1935 - 1945 : Director of Economic Research, Dun and Bradstreet; created and became first editor of Dun's Review
  • 1938 - 1940 : Economic Advisor (part-time) to the Secretary of Commerce and the Temporary National Economic Committee (U.S. Congress)
  • 1940 - 1946 : Named by the Federal Court as one of two trustees of the failing Associated Gas and Electric System; oversaw its reorganization as General Public Utilities
  • 1946: Served as chairman of the board of the General Public Utilities
  • 1942 - 1955 : Trustee, Amherst College (two six-year terms)
  • 1945 - 1946 : Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
  • 1946 - 1952 (Nov 15) : Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
  • 1946: Member, U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Treaty Conference
  • 1946: Special adviser on economic matters, New York meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers
  • 1947: U.S. Delegate, U.S./U.K. Meeting on Bizonal Arrangements for Germany
  • 1947 - 1948 : Alternate U.S. representative the United Nations General Assembly
  • 1947 - 1950 : U.S. Representative on the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
  • 1947: U.S. Representative, Intergovernmental Working Party on the Safeguarding of Foreign Interests in Germany
  • 1947: Chairman, U.S. delegation to the Ruhr Coal Production Talks, Washington, D.C.
  • ca. 1947 - 1952 : Attended annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank
  • 1947: President, American Statistical Association
  • 1947 Aug: Divorced from Hildegarde Ellen Churchill; Married Clarice Brows
  • 1949: Assigned to carry out the Point IV international assistance program, as outlined in President Truman's inaugural address
  • 1949: Acting Alternate Governor, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Monetary Fund
  • 1950 - 1952 : Chairman of the U.S. delegation to sessions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Torquay, England (1950); Geneva (1951,1952)
  • 1952: U.S. Delegate, Second Tripartite Conference on Assistance to Yugoslavia
  • 1952 - 1965 : Professor of Economics, Amherst College
  • 1949 - 1952 : Board of Governors, American Red Cross
  • 1953 - 1961 : Director of Merrill Center for Economics
  • 1956 - 1962 : Trustee at Brandeis University
  • 1954: Published Trade, Aid or What?
  • 1957: Acting President of Amherst College (for approximately 10 weeks)
  • 1956 - 1956 [?] : Director, National Bureau of Economic Research
  • 1960: Chief, United Nations Economic Survey Mission to Cyprus
  • 1961: Chosen by John F. Kennedy to head the President's Special Study Mission to Bolivia
  • 1961: Economic consultant to the Anti-trust Investigation Group (ATIG)
  • 1963 - 1967 : Named Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) by John F. Kennedy, with the rank of Ambassador (Paris, France)
  • 1965: Retired from teaching; Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Amherst College
  • 1967 - 1969 : Shepardson Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • 1970 - 1971 : Served on the Administration Management Survey, United Nations Secretariat
  • 1971: Visiting Professor, University of Florida
  • 1977 - 1987 : Served on Pelham, Mass., Finance Committee
  • 1987 - 1990 : Pelham Town Treasurer
  • 1992 May 10: Died in Pelham


Clarice Brows Thorp was born Clarice Florence Brows in 1912 in New York City. Graduating from Washington Square College in 1933 and New York University School of Law in 1935, she was admitted to the New York State bar in 1936. While working as a law clerk and later at the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Brows Thorp found most of her professional satisfaction in her vibrant political and legal activities. A strong proponent of civil liberties, alien rights, women's engagement, and the Democratic Party, she was an active organizer, speaker, and supporter on behalf of many organizations throughout her life. She worked for several years with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Democratic National Committee. Her resume relates that she delivered hundreds of speeches in support of President Roosevelt. While working as legal staff at Associated Gas and Electric, Brows Thorp met and later married Willard L. Thorp. She accompanied and supported Thorp in his political trips and work, attending U.N. sessions and other official functions whenever permitted. She also assisted in management of the Merrill Center for Economics. Brows Thorp remained active in national and local affairs throughout her life, especially in women's organizations, in defense of civil liberties, and in the Thorps' eventual hometown of Pelham, Mass. She was widowed in 1992, and died in 2003.

  • 1912 Oct 15: Born in New York City, New York
  • 1929: Graduated from Wadleigh High School in New York
  • 1933: Graduated from Washington Square College of New York University
  • 1935: Graduated from New York University School of Law
  • 1936 Mar: Admitted to New York State Bar
  • 1935 Jul - 1937 May : Worked as law clerk and legal researcher
  • 1936 - 1939 : Democratic National Committee, Women's Division, Speakers Bureau
  • 1937 - 1938 : New York Young Democratic Club, Inc
  • 1937 - 1938 : American Association of University Women, Chairman of Legislative Committee
  • 1937 - 1939 : Magistrates' Courts Social Service Bureau, Board of Directors, specializing in defending indigent criminals
  • 1937 - 1942 : Women's City Club of New York, Labor and Industry Committee, Prevention and Correction, Civil Liberties, Speakers' Bureau
  • 1938: Women's Bar Association, Labor sub-committee
  • 1939 - 1942 : Assistant, and then Acting Staff Council American Civil Liberties Union, Secretary Committee on Alien Civil Rights
  • 1939 - 1940 : New York City Coordinating Committee for Democratic Action
  • 1937 - 1942 : Worked for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Second District, New York, Bankruptcy Division
  • 1942 Mar - 1945 Dec : Member of the legal staff at Associated Gas and Electric
  • 1943 May: Moved to new home in Great Neck, New York with mother, sister Gertrude Brows Rosen, and brother-in-law Hyman Rosen.
  • 1944: National Independent Voters for Roosevelt and Truman, Nassau-Suffolk Independent Voters for Roosevelt, Co-Chair
  • 1944: Democratic State Committee, Democratic National Committee, Committee on International Civil Liberties
  • 1945 Oct: Moved to New York City from Great Neck, New York.
  • 1947 Aug: Married Willard Long Thorp
  • 1948 Jul - 1948 Dec : Trip to Italy, Switzerland, and France for Willard Thorp's participation as a member of the United States Delegation to the Third Regular Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in Paris.
  • 1952: Moved to Pelham, Massachusetts
  • 1953 - : 1961 Assisted Willard L. Thorp at Merrill Center for Economics
  • 1955: Accompanied Willard L. Thorp on trip to Japan, gave speeches on women's rights
  • 1963 - 1967 : Moved to France when Willard L. Thorp was named U.S. Ambassador to Paris
  • 1976 - 1977 : Chairman of Pelham Growth Policy Committee
  • n.d.: Pelham Library Trustee
  • n.d.: Pelham Watershed Committee
  • 1978 - 1981 : Pelham Board of Selectmen
  • 1986 - 1991 : Pelham Zoning Board of Appeals
  • 1987: Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Finance Committee, Chairman
  • 1992 May 10: Widowed when Willard L. Thorp dies in Pelham, Massachusetts
  • 2003 Aug 5: Died in Pelham, Massachusetts

From the guide to the Willard L. (AC 1920) and Clarice Brows Thorp Papers, 1857-1994, 1920-1967, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • New Deal, 1933-1939
  • Technical assistance, American
  • Social participation
  • Conformity
  • Reconstruction (1939-1951) Germany (West)
  • Technical assistance--Developing countries
  • Monetary policy--Congresses
  • Economic assistance--Developing countries
  • Petroleum industry and trade
  • Antitrust law--United States--Cases


not available for this record


  • Cyprus (as recorded)
  • United States. Federal Alcohol Control Administration (as recorded)
  • Bolivia (as recorded)
  • United States. Dept. of State. (as recorded)
  • United States. Mutual Security Agency (as recorded)
  • United States. Technical Cooperation Administration (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States. Federal Alcohol Administration (as recorded)
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Ways and Means. Subcommittee on Foreign Trade Policy (as recorded)
  • United States. National Recovery Administration (as recorded)
  • United States. Temporary National Economic Committee (as recorded)
  • United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations (as recorded)
  • United States. Economic Cooperation Administration (as recorded)