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Yellen, who earned her doctorate in economics from Yale, was the daughter of a Brooklyn doctor who saw patients in the family home. Her mother was den mother to a troop of Cub Scouts.
Rich Rubin, a retired professor of medicine who was a classmate of Yellen’s for nine years, said that as a boy he frequently visited the “cozy” Yellen home. He recalled Yellen, quiet as usual, lingering around the fringes of the all-boys Cub Scout group as they discussed literature.
“I remember her mom talking about books with us. It was clear the family was a very cultured family,” Rubin said.
Charles Saydah, a retired journalist who went to junior high and Fort Hamilton High School with Yellen, said she was “a self-described nerd, nose to the grindstone.”
“We referred to her as a stealth intellect,” said Saydah. “She only called attention to herself when we compared marks - she always got the highest marks.”
Yellen decided to pursue a career in economics after hearing Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin speak and being impressed by his combination of academic accomplishment and public service.
Her notes of Tobin’s lectures were so exhaustive that students passed them around as study guides.
That thoroughness has stayed. Yellen arrives at Fed meetings with carefully researched written remarks, delivering them in measured tones with a slight, somewhat nasal Brooklyn accent that nearly 30 years in California did not fully eradicate.
Yellen’s experience in policymaking is as solid as her career in academia, which included teaching at Harvard University and the London School of Economics as well as the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
She had two stints as a Fed policymaker before becoming vice chair, as a board member and as president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and headed former president Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers for 2-1/2 years.