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Roger Ferguson

Economist and lawyer, Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. was born on October 28, 1951 in Washington, D.C. ‘s northeast section. His father was a U.S. Army mapmaker and his mother was a public school teacher. Ferguson became interested in economics and finance at an early age. His father was an avid investor and traveled to the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia to purchase treasury securities. Ferguson attended public schools in D.C. and high school at Sidwell Friends School, a co-educational Quaker day school. He obtained his B.A. degree in economics from Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude. He then spent a year in England as a Frank Knox Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Ferguson obtained his J.D. degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1979 and in 1981 his Ph.D. degree in economics from Harvard University.

Ferguson worked as an attorney for the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardell, LLP in New York before becoming an associate and ultimately a partner at McKinsey & Company Inc., where he served as director of research and information systems and managed a variety of studies for financial institutions. In 1997, Ferguson joined the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, becoming the third African American in history to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. In 1999, Ferguson was appointed to serve as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the first African American to serve in that role. His duties as vice chairman included heading a committee that proposed methods to improve Federal Reserve communication. Ferguson also served as chairman of the Group of Ten Working Party of Financial Sector Consolidation, chairman of the Committee on the Global Financial System (CGFS), and the chairman of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF) during his tenure as vice chairman.

In 2006, Ferguson resigned as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and in 2008 joined the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) as CEO and President. He has served as economic advisor to President Obama, initially as a member of the President-elect’s Transition Economic Advisory Board and subsequently as a member of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Ferguson has received the Distinguished Service Award from the Bond Market Association, an honorary Fellowship at Pembroke College, the William F. Butler Memorial Award from the New York Association for Business Economics, the Renaissance Award from the Abyssinian Development Corporation, and the Frederick Heldering Global Leadership Award from the Global Interdependence Center. He also holds honorary doctorates from Lincoln College, Webster University, Michigan State University, Washington and Jefferson College, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In 2009, Ferguson received The “Visionary Award” from the Council for Economic Education and the “Good Scout Award” from the Greater New York Boy Scout Council. Ferguson is married to former United States Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Annette Nazareth. They have two children.

Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers<\em> on May 14, 2012.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name



Sidwell Friends School

Harvard University

Harvard Law School

Charles E. Young Elementary School

River Terrace Elementary School

Jefferson Middle School Academy

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season



District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote


Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York


United States

Favorite Food

French Fries

Short Description

Economist and lawyer Roger Ferguson (1951 - ) was the president and chief executive officer of the TIAA-CREF and served as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System.


McKinsey and Company

Davis, Polk & Wardell, LLP

United States Federal Reserve System

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association

Swiss Re America Holding Corporation

International Flavors and Fragrances

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roger Ferguson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roger Ferguson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roger Ferguson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roger Ferguson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roger Ferguson talks about his paternal step grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roger Ferguson describes his father's athletic talents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roger Ferguson describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roger Ferguson describes his father's interest in finance

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roger Ferguson describes his siblings and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roger Ferguson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roger Ferguson describes his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Roger Ferguson remembers Charles Young Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roger Ferguson recalls River Terrace Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roger Ferguson recalls his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roger Ferguson describes segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roger Ferguson remembers Jefferson Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roger Ferguson recalls his early interest in the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roger Ferguson recalls enrolling at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roger Ferguson describes his social life at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roger Ferguson recalls his decision to attend Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roger Ferguson recalls the racial tension at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roger Ferguson describes his work study job at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roger Ferguson recalls his activism at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roger Ferguson recalls his economics research in Chile

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roger Ferguson remembers his graduation from Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roger Ferguson recalls his fellowship in Cambridge, England

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roger Ferguson recalls his decision to pursue law and economics

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roger Ferguson recalls his dual graduate degree program at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roger Ferguson describes his parents' influence on his self esteem

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roger Ferguson talks about his decision to pursue dual graduate degrees

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roger Ferguson remembers working at the law firm of Davis Polk and Wardwell

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roger Ferguson recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roger Ferguson recalls working at McKinsey and Company

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roger Ferguson talks about balancing his career and family

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roger Ferguson recalls how he came to work for the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roger Ferguson remembers joining the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roger Ferguson recalls becoming vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roger Ferguson remembers serving as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roger Ferguson remembers the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roger Ferguson recalls his decision to leave the Federal Reserve System

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roger Ferguson recalls serving as the president and CEO of TIAA-CREFF

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roger Ferguson describes his hopes and concerns for his children

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Roger Ferguson describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Roger Ferguson reflects upon his legacy at TIAA-CREF

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Roger Ferguson describes his plans for the future







Roger Ferguson describes his father's interest in finance
Roger Ferguson remembers the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001
But the thing that was really distinctive about my father [Roger Ferguson, Sr.] was that he was a child of the Depression [Great Depression] and he had lots of stories to tell about the Depression and it clearly impacted him. And the way it impacted him was he became very interested in savings and investments and the way the banking system worked. So the thing I, I remember many things about my father, the thing that really influenced me was that my father got me very interested at a very young age in things having to do with finance and banking and et cetera. And, in fact, as soon as I could do math at a reasonably proficient level, you know, just adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing, he had me balance the check book.$$Okay.$$And much of our conversation while he was an avid football fan and, you know, loved to bowl and fish, much of our conversation was really about interest rates and investments and safe banks and, and that sort of thing.$$How do you think he acquired that kind of knowledge, he had the interest but how do you think he got the, the knowledge?$$I think he may have gotten it, some from his father [sic. step father, George Ferguson], I think he got it some from school as well, but mainly he was just sort of self taught. He read the newspapers, the other thing I remember about my father is not just that he read newspapers, but he had a broad interest in life and he was a curious person as well. And it, it showed up in, in unusual ways. I've talked a little bit about his interest in, in finance and money and investing, and for a, you know, a guy who was living, my mother [Alberta Lawson Ferguson] was a school teacher, my father worked for the government, they didn't have huge amounts of money so it was unusual for him to be interested in that kind of thing. He was interested in training people in that space, not only did he train me, but my sister [Rochelle Ferguson Washington (ph.)] has a very good friend who has gotten interested in investing in only land and property and she attributes all that to my father.$The thing that proves to be most important about my tenure at the Fed [Federal Reserve System] though is 9/11/2001 [September 11, 2001]. Nine, eleven, two thousand one is a day that obviously along with other fa- sadly a few other days, lives in infamy, 'cause that was the day of the terrorist attacks in United States of America. On that day Alan Greenspan was in Europe, in Switzerland at a big meeting of central banks that occurred every six to eight weeks, sometimes he would go, sometimes I would go, it was his turn to go, all the other governors in the Fed were around the country and the U.S. doing Fed business or giving speeches of, of, or doing other things. And so I was the only governor in Washington, D.C. I'm at my desk as usual at around 8:15, my wife [Annette Nazareth] at this point is an important senior official at the SEC [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission], she runs market regulation. And market regulation team has a desk that watches and monitors markets in real time--$$Um-hm.$$--on a daily basis. And so at about 8:20 at the time, I'm gonna get the time wrong, 8:40, 8:45, my wife calls and says, "Our market watch folks have alerted me that there's something wrong in New York [New York] because one of the World Trade Center towers is on fire, you might just wanna turn on the TV and monitor it"--$$Um-hm.$$--"we don't know what's happening," et cetera. So I turn on the TV, I see the second plane go into the second tower, obviously not a coincidence, not just bad luck, but hard to imagine what it is, you can't quite imagine that anyone would intentionally fly--$$Right--$$--airplanes into the world's tallest buildings in New York. But what it, what I do know is it's gonna be a scramble in Manhattan [New York, New York] because the World Trade Center, very close to the New York Stock Exchange [New York, New York], close to a number of other very important financial services firms and institutions including a company called Bank of New York [Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, New York, New York], which is one of the cl- clearing banks that keeps the, the system operating, the check clearing system operating, but more importantly, keeps the security systems operating and, and money flowing the system. World Trade Center was also very close to the New York Fed [Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York, New York], so it's in the Wall Street area [New York, New York] and obviously I and my wife both know that it's gonna be a tough day that we don't know what the source of the problem is. I immediately then, you know, go to the floor where we are watching and listening to New York in the Fed, decide a couple of things that are very important, the president has announced that there has been some sort of attack and--$$This is President Bush [President George Walker Bush] at this time (simultaneous)?$$--(Simultaneous) President Bush at this point--$$Um-hm.$$--that there's been some sort of attack and that we need to evacuate Washington. I made immediately the executive decision that I was not gonna leave the Fed, others could leave, I couldn't lock the door and make the staff stay, but I was not gonna evacuate my location. That proved to be really pretty important, because everybody else was moving around the city out of touch, my phones were still working, everyone could call me, so the Fed, not just my office, but I was part of it, became the spider in the web of information flow, the SEC, the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission], the Treasury [U.S. Department of the Treasury], the White House [Washington, D.C.], the New York Fed, a number of the important banks, we in Washington, I at the Fed and my team, the Fed team were central in knowing what was going on.$$And so you kept the financial system together during that time (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So we kept the financial system together. The second thing that we announced was that the Federal Reserve System was open and operating and that we were prepared to lend money.$$Throughout the entire time of--?$$Throughout the entire time. These things, as you point out, through lots of different technical reasons basically kept the Federal, the financial system operating, all checks got paid, the money market system still worked. A lot of technical things called the repo market, still worked and that was very important because there was no panic in America. Imagine if you would come to work one day and your check didn't clear on 9/11 (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$--or 9/12 [September 12, 2001], or you went to an ATM machine and you couldn't get money out of the machine, and so we kept the system operating, we kept the panic down and I truly believe that because of the good work that the Fed team did on that day, and I happen to be the one in the leadership role for the first two and a half days after 9/11, that we kept the economy from sinking into a deeper recession. At that point the economy had actually started to slow by the way. So I ran the Fed with a team but I was the team leader all on Tuesday, the September 11th, Wednesday September 12th, Alan got back very late on the 12th, he did some quite research, found that I had done a good job and basically I was responsible for the Feds initial reaction all through that first week. And, you know, I'm not a person given to immodesty, as you know--$$Um-hm.$$--and can tell, but, you know, things worked out well, the team did a really good job and in hindsight, obviously, I am pleased with the role that I played in keeping the system functioning--$$Would you say (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) after 9/11.$$--that's one of your proudest moments in your career?$$It's definitely my proudest moment. It's the moment that brought together my knowledge of the banking system, financial markets--$$And technology (simultaneous)?$$--(simultaneous) technology, the way the Fed system worked. It required a lot of international coordination as well, so having spent that time starting back in my little story about going to Chile and England, and other things that I did. So it all came together. It also was a time where communication was important and I learned a lot of communication skills from McKinsey [McKinsey and Company, New York, New York] and frankly sort of interpersonal skills, which are important all through life. So it's absolutely my finest moment and, you know, had we made other decisions, had I decided to evacuate the building or not keep the Fed System open, or not issue a statement, or not lend money, I do believe things would have been, you know, much worse.