It is hard to imagine the F&M Economics Department without Sean Flaherty’s legendary course on Microeconomics (known among Econ students as simply the toughest course ever!), or the squeaking of the overhead projector as he pushes it slowly through the corridors of Stager, or the neatly drawn, multi-colored graphs covering the walls in his classrooms.
Professor Flaherty earned his B.A. at F&M in 1973 magna cum laude and his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley. He returned to teach in the Department of Economics in 1981, where he remained until retiring this year. He leaves a weighty legacy of committed service to his alma mater, having served as the Economics Department Chair twice; Don of Weis College House; a Chair or Member of countless elected and other College committees; and having played a significant role in the establishment of new academic programs, including Africana Studies, Public Policy, and Public Health.
Sean’s scholarly journey began in the field of labor economics, industrial relations, and political economy. His articles on unionism, inequality and income distribution, and productivity in the manufacturing sector appeared in journals such as Industrial Relations, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, and Research in Political Economy. His attention later shifted to social welfare, particularly with respect to issues in health and education, leading to publications in the Eastern Economic Journal, the Journal of Women’s Health Issues, Pennsylvania Economic Review, and JLGH: Journal of Lancaster General Health. But his professional contributions transcended the academy. He gave testimony in Public Hearings of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services, and before the House Committee on Labor Relations; he authored research reports for the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council and the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network; and he wrote expert witness reports and offered oral testimony regarding the economic impacts of medical malpractice and wrongful death.
Dedication to the liberal arts tradition shines in Flaherty’s classroom and relationship with his students, for which he was recognized with the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2010. While at F&M, his courses ranged from introductory subjects in Economics and General Education, to an upper level seminar on Wealth and Income Inequality, in which students read Thomas Piketty’s pathbreaking Capital in the Twenty-first Century, among other substantial volumes. In addition, he taught scores of Independent Studies and Direct Readings on healthcare and tax reform. His research work with students produced papers on Child Poverty in China; the Economic Status of Women in Lancaster County; Residential Segregation; and Poverty in Lancaster County. Students’ admiration for Sean is expressed in this year’s senior exit interviews – “Forced his students to push their limits,” “Definitely one of the hardest teachers in the department, but I learned the most in his classes.” One student summed it up by saying: “I could go on forever to describe how my interactions with him have affected both my intellectual and personal developments.”
In the words of his students, “Flaherty is the best!” The F&M campus will not be the same without him.