Kenneth Elzinga

I am an unlikely person to be a professor. As a little boy, my first professional aspiration was to be a garbage man. When my folks went broke farming in Coopersville, MI, we moved to Kalamazoo, and there I encountered garbage trucks. These large, fascinating vehicles weren’t around in Coopersville. Later, my occupational goal was to enlist in the army as soon as I got out of high school. But playing tennis was part of my meal ticket to college, and there I met a professor (Sherrill Cleland at Kalamazoo College) who encouraged me to be serious about my studies and then to consider graduate school. I took his counsel, which led to a Ph.D. in economics. In a sense, I’ve never left school in my whole life.

Most of my academic career has been spent at the University of Virginia, with leaves of absence at Cambridge University, Trinity University, Pepperdine University, and for government service at the Antitrust Division. At UVA, I teach a large introductory course in economic principles and also an upper division course in my research specialty, antitrust economics. Check out my webpage for my teaching philosophy: It is driven by a powerful episode in the life of Jesus.

After many years on the faculty, I still enjoy working with young people. It has been my joy to observe the growth of the student Christian community at what we call ‘Mr. Jefferson’s university’ ï?­ from one small struggling group to (now) dozens. The Center for Christian Study just off grounds is an important anchor for much of the student fellowship that goes on, and I was privileged to be in on the ‘ground floor’ (literally and figuratively) of that organization. Come visit the Center sometime!

My mother was a devout Christian (I realize that now more than I did then). She died when I was young, but after I decided to follow Jesus (when I was in graduate school), I watched my father come to faith late in his life. What a blessing.

My first wife died young of cancer; I am remarried to a graduate of UVA’s Architecture School. We both love English bulldogs, my best friend having given us one as a wedding present. If you want a dog someday, English bulldogs are great.

I consider myself, by God’s grace, to have one of the best jobs in the world. Indeed, God’s grace is the only plausible hypothesis to explain how someone like me could end up being a professor.

I’ll close with Paul’s words, ‘The saying is true and worthy of complete acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost’ (I Timothy 1:15). I connect with these words. Like all the people on Meet the Prof, I endeavor to teach what is true. But nothing I teach in an economics classroom is ‘worthy of complete acceptance’ the way the gospel is. And there is much truth, in my case, to the last part of this verse as well. I am a debtor to grace.

My Life

  • Hobbies
    water skiing (slalom and trick), travel, street rods
  • Fantasy dinner guests
    C.S. Lewis, John Calvin, Dorothy Sayers, William Breit
  • In college I drove
    1951 Ford (but now I have a 1932 Ford Street Rod, so I am going backwards in time)
  • Worst school subject
    an English literature course with a focus on Chaucer. I have plans now to reread Chaucer to see if I can do better.
  • College for undergrad degree
    B.A. in economics from Kalamazoo College
  • Best advice I ever got
    Take good care of your equipment and your equipment will take good care of you.
  • Favorite books
    Putting aside the Bible, Mere Christianity and Lord Jim
  • Favorite movies
    Chariots of Fire, The African Queen
  • Favorite city
    my home town, Charlottesville; away from home, Grindelwald and Venice
  • Favorite coffee
    I'm not a coffee drinker; I prefer Snapple Tea (Diet Peach, please) and Red Bull.
  • Nobody knows I
    (If I told, the statement would not be true anymore.)
  • If I were not a professor, I would
    be a full-time economic consultant.
  • Latest accomplishment
    Being the expert economic witness in an antitrust case that went to the Supreme Court and resulted in overturning an almost century-long (economically misguided) precedent.
    University of Virginia

    One Response to Kenneth Elzinga

    1. Scott Walker November 1, 2017 at 3:33 am #

      As a UVA law grad (‘89), I am thrilled to learn of your influence for Christ at UVA and in Charlottesville. I benefitted greatly from campus ministries in college and the discipleship it provided. Be encouraged that you are doing a great work. May Our Lord bless you in your Christian witness.

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