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Yes, indeed! UW–Madison faculty and alumni were closely connected to the development and implementation of Social Security. Key players were Edwin Witte 1909, PhD’27, Arthur Altmeyer 1914, MA1920, PhD’31; and Wilbur Cohen ’34. Witte (for whom Witte Hall is named) was a longtime professor of economics — he was on the faculty from 1933 to 1957. Prior to that, he’d been the head of the Wisconsin legislature’s Legislative Reference Library, which collected economic data and helped to draft legislation. In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Witte to chair the committee that wrote the Social Security Act. Altmeyer, who had been a grad student with Witte, then served as chair of the Social Security Board and then Commissioner for Social Security from 1937 to 1953. His job was eliminated when Dwight Eisenhower became president, and he was put out of work just a few days before he would have been eligible to retire. Cohen served as Witte’s research assistant in writing the Social Security Act and then was on Altmeyer’s staff. In 1968, Lyndon Johnson appointed him Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, which oversees Social Security —but he held the position he held for less than a year, the shortest tenure of any secretary in that department.

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