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Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize

Vanderbilt Economics Ph.D. and GPED Alumnus Muhammad Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize

(2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus speaks to economic students during a return visit to the Vanderbilt campus).

Muhammad Yunus, who earned a Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt University in 1971, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his work combating poverty through a bank that gives small loans to poor people.

“Very few people have made as profound a difference in the lives of so many as Muhammed Yunus,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee. “The Nobel Prize is a recognition of his enormous contributions to society, and the Vanderbilt community joins in the celebration."

Yunus’ concept of microcredit – small loans to poor villagers in Bangladesh to help them buy livestock or fund an enterprise, has grown from $27 he loaned out of his own pocket into the Grameen Bank, which has loaned more than $5.7 billion to 6.61 million borrowers. Despite lack of collateral or signed loan documents, 99 percent of the loans have been paid back. The Grameen Bank provides services in more than 71,000 villages in Bangladesh through 2,226 branches.

“Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty,” the Nobel Committee said in its citation. “Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.”

Yunus, who has visited the Vanderbilt campus regularly since his graduation, was named the university’s first Distinguished Alumnus in 1996. He refers to Vanderbilt his “second home” to this day.

“His parents were determined that he become a physician,” said James Foster, professor of economics at Vanderbilt. “I think he’s achieved that by becoming a physician to the economy.

“Vanderbilt’s economics department and all of Vanderbilt are thrilled at this richly deserved recognition.”

The Grameen (which means “rural” in Bengali) Bank began in the village of Jobra in 1976, when Yunus gave $27 to 42 self-employed crafts workers. He reasoned that if financial resources were made available to the poor on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, “these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder.”

Yunus is the author of an autobiography, The Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty.

“I once asked Yunus what he did for fun,” Foster said. “He told me he spent his spare time thinking of new strategies to help people help themselves. That’s the kind of person he is.”

Media contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS




The Nobel:

The Grameen Bank: