Gabelli Hosts Award-Winning Author

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Gabelli Hosts Award-Winning Author

James Grant spoke to Gabelli students about historical economist Walter Bagehot and the power of money in society.

James Grant spoke to Gabelli students about historical economist Walter Bagehot and the power of money in society.

JOE KOTTKE/THE OBSERVER

James Grant spoke to Gabelli students about historical economist Walter Bagehot and the power of money in society.

JOE KOTTKE/THE OBSERVER

JOE KOTTKE/THE OBSERVER

James Grant spoke to Gabelli students about historical economist Walter Bagehot and the power of money in society.

By JOE KOTTKE, Contributing Writer

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On Sept. 25, 2019, financial journalist James Grant spoke to the Gabelli School of Business about the publication of his ninth book, “Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian.” 

According to Annelice Morales, associate director at the Gabelli School of Business, 150 people were in attendance, including students, staff and followers of Grant.

Grant studied international affairs at Columbia University and began his career in journalism at the Baltimore Sun in the 1970s. By 1983, he had founded his own journal: Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, covering investment markets.

As Grant began his presentation in the McNally Amphitheatre, he encountered a moment of audio difficulties. Grant’s dry humor played well to the audience as he leaned into the microphone and said, “Let me start over … Hey Fordham, it’s nice to be here,” which was followed by an immediate wave of laughter.

Walter Bagehot ⁠— the subject of Grant’s biography — was a banker, essayist, and editor of The Economist. Grant extensively covered the history of Bagehot, commenting 20 minutes in, “If I had three or four hours left, I could continue to tell you why I chose this topic and describe the delights of the project.”

Grant described finance as a patronized form of art and a cyclical process. “What people want out of finance is to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but what many don’t realize is that studying the past can save you from the most devastating mistakes,” he said. 

Grant broke off on occasional tangents, adding personal anecdotes. “Money is not humanity’s best subject,” said Grant. “I used to be much more knowledgeable and dogmatic about the future. Writing this book helped me understand the money gene.” 

Noticing the audience’s confusion, Grant further explained that “when people are in the presence of big money, it’s like falling in love; they are no more left-brained about money than they are about a person of romantic interest.”

After his closing words, Grant was joined on stage by David Cowen, president of the Museum of Finance — the co-sponsor of the event.

“James has been involved with us for many years, guest-curating exhibits and writing for our magazine,” said Cowen. “He is a legend in the capital market. We are fortunate to have a long-standing relationship with him, as we are a nonprofit and do not pay him to speak.”

According to Cowen, the museum’s partnership with Fordham over the past 18 months has led to a number of highly engaging events. “Fordham provides the beautiful facilities and brings the students. The museum brings our members and has access to amazing speakers.”