Searching for a way to describe his role at Rider University, Dr. Charles McCall humbly invoked a comparison from the world of sports. “If this were basketball, I wouldn’t be the one scoring all the points,” said McCall, an associate professor of Economics. “But I think I would constantly be trying to get someone else the ball in a position to score.”
In basketball, this mindset is the hallmark of a true team player. At Rider, it is the type of selflessness that has earned McCall the 2010 Nancy Gray Award, presented to him on Thursday, April 8, at University Day festivities. The award was presented by 2009 winner Michael Rutkowski.
The award, named for Nancy Gray, former vice president for Development and University Relations, honors a member of Rider’s faculty or staff who exemplifies campus leadership, involvement, school pride and spirit, and community service.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of things at Rider, but not of the stature of some of the award’s past winners,” McCall said. “It was a tremendous surprise to me, especially to think of all the people who came before me to win the Nancy Gray Award.”
For McCall, the award is a culmination of the more than 30 years he has spent in Lawrenceville, instilling his knowledge of macroeconomics and industrial organization within his students. It would have been hard for McCall to forecast his future, however, during his undergraduate days at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa. He began as a Psychology major, and then shifted his attention toward Spanish before turning to Economics.
“I always enjoyed economics, the analysis and conceptual framework, but I didn’t go to school thinking about it,” he recalled. “But in the 1970s, it seemed to offer me the best career options, and I needed a job once I graduated.”
As it turned out, McCall also had a family connection in the field, an uncle who spent his career as an academic economist. “He worked at a college, and made teaching his career, which appealed to me,” he said.
McCall worked for a few years in Baltimore for the Farm Credit System, a federally chartered network of cooperatives and service organizations that lends to agricultural producers, rural property owners and other farm-related business, while taking courses at night. In 1979, he earned a master’s degree in Economics from Temple University and decided to pursue a Ph.D. with the intent of making teaching his new career. That same year, he began instructing students at Rider, and has been impacting them since.
“Professor McCall can be likened to a catalyst (in that) he enables each and every one of us to achieve our goals, both as students at this institution, as well as at a personal level,” wrote one current Rider student in nominating McCall for the Nancy Gray Award. “He enables us, gives us insight and is a very dependable individual. He is a one-of-a-kind, genuine professor and my personal belief is that he became a professor for all the right reasons.”
McCall, who also earned his Ph.D. from Temple, has also helped Rider’s curriculum evolve with the times, contributing his economic expertise to the University’s Business of Sports minor concentration. It’s a natural fit to the suburban Philadelphia native, who grew up enjoying the basketball heydays of the city’s numerous college basketball programs and remains an ardent sports fan.
“I offer the economic framework for analyzing issues, and to that extent, the course has worked very well,” he said, adding that the lure of sports – even to discuss economic issues – has helped make the program very popular. “We use economic models to analyze issues, like players’ salaries, and explore whether or not they are fair. We’ll see how labor markets work, discuss reserve clauses, relative salary levels and how much players contribute to the economy of their sports. Very often, we’ve found that these salaries are actually not out of line.”
For example, McCall uses the case of basketball legend Michael Jordan who, at his height, earned a salary of $30 million per year from the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. “Even at that salary, when you look at what he brought to the city of Chicago and to his team, and factor in the increased television revenue he represented through ratings and advertisements, and even the additional attendance he represented to teams hosting the Bulls, it was clear that he was worth his salary,” McCall explained.
In a similar, if somewhat less lucrative way, McCall strives to be of value to the Rider community, and is proud of his recent recognition. “I had the opportunity to be on a committee with Nancy Gray, and by observing her hard work and dedication, and seeing how it paid off in so many ways, I learned a lot about the legacy of service,” he explained. “I think I’ve used that to maintain a high level of involvement in the campus community.”