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The prize changed their lives

Even though you are “only” the spouse of a Nobel Prize winner, the great scientific honour that the prize represents does cause major changes in your working and private life. Beverly P. Mortensen, the wife of Dale T. Mortensen, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 2010, recently told her side of the story at the Aarhus University International Club.

“When we travel we meet all sorts of exciting people – heads of state, for instance. And we actually have real conversations with these people, and since I am married to this guy who got the prize, they include me in these conversations,” Beverly P. Mortensen says.

When Beverly P. Mortensen listened to her answerphone in the morning of 10 October 2010 at home in Chicago, her husband was 7,000 kilometres away in Aarhus and she was expecting to spend her day working on remodelling their new apartment. But the message on the machine changed everything!
The message was “Hi, ahem, I know it’s 5:30 in the morning … I’m telling you that Mortensen, Pissarides and Diamond just won the prize … The Nobel Prize.”
“I was told that it would be half an hour before the news got out. And once it did get out, the phone rang all day long. The first three journalists that rang were from Colombia, Argentina and Al Jazeera. And then I was broadcast live on the local radio stations. It was crazy,” she smiles.

It changed our lives

Beverly P. Mortensen is the wife of Dale T. Mortensen, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics last year and is now part of a research unit at Aarhus University called “Cycles, Adjustment and Policy”. The unit’s field of research is the labour market based on Denmark's excellent Panel data.
Her husband received the prize almost one year ago at the official ceremony in Stockholm. So
Beverly P. Mortensen can now review her first year as what she calls “a Nobel wife”. She came along to share her thoughts with a big audience at the University International Club on 9 November.
“It changed our lives, it really did. I see around me a new respect for my husband’s ideas, which is really exciting. His ideas haven’t changed. It’s just that everybody else has changed. So now they ask him his opinion, and he’s delighted to give it.”

Continuity in a busy life

Ever since her husband won the prize, Beverly P. Mortensen has felt that her role was to provide a sense of continuity in a life full of travelling, giving lectures and meeting new people all the time.
“Sometimes he’s a rock star. People want to take photos of him, they carry his luggage and drive us around in limousines. But sometimes he sits alone in a hotel room or ends up in a train station all on his own. It’s very strange, and his life goes up and down all the time. So my job is to be the continuity, it’s to be the person that’s always there,” she explains.

Not used to being known as “somebody’s wife”

Before the Nobel Prize Beverly P. Mortensen was not used to being known as “somebody’s wife”. She had her own academic career as a Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago, and has previously worked as both a professional folksinger and choir leader. She explains that during the past year she has found it difficult to find time for research and writing. But she has also enjoyed all the new experiences of the past year.
“When we travel we meet all sorts of exciting people – heads of state, for instance. And we actually have real conversations with these people, and since I am married to this guy who got the prize, they include me in these conversations. I get a seat at the table for important discussions, and it’s amazing.”

Why complain?

She did admit to her audience at the University International Club that there have been periods when all the travelling and fuss have been slightly overwhelming.
“But we meet so much kindness and warmth and positive energy from everybody all the time. And this has really been a positive experience. So after six months, in the middle of the summer after countless air trips to God knows how many places, I remember thinking ‘I’m actually having a good time’. So I have just decided that life is going to give you what you get, and who would actually complain about getting the Nobel Prize?”

University International Club

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