Hendrik S. Houthakker, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics Emeritus, has been selected by Pope John Paul II to be a Knight Commander with Star in the Papal Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
Speaking by telephone from his home in Hanover, N.H., Houthakker said he was surprised to learn he had been chosen to receive the award but surmised it was in recognition of his having organized a meeting of economists to advise the pope on economic policy. The meeting took place about 10 years ago in Rome. He has been in touch with the pope several times since then, but said it would be an exaggeration to call him the pope’s economic adviser.
Houthakker, whose areas of academic interest have included finance, consumer demand, and the economic analysis of inequality and discrimination, retired from the Harvard faculty in 1994.
The Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory, founded in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI, is a high distinction to individuals in recognition of a particular meritorious service to the common good. Since 1974, only 22 other Americans have received the senior rank of Commander with Star.
The last Harvard professor to receive the award was Divinity School Professor George Williams in 1979. An ordained Protestant minister, Williams had written extensively on the history of the Catholic Church.
Houthakker will be inducted into the Papal knighthood in a ceremony of investiture at St. Denis Church in Hanover on April 12. The Most Rev. Walter J. Edyvean, auxiliary bishop and Vicar General of Boston, will conduct the ceremony.
Houthakker, who is not Catholic, said he does not believe joining an equestrian order will mean he will be obligated to ride a horse. “At least I hope not,” he said, “because I am not a horseman.”