Solving economic ‘problems’

A musician and environmental economist for the EPA, Jared Creason, ’88, applies many of the lessons his father and longtime Indiana State economics professor Woody Creason taught him.




Childhood trips from Jared Creason’s house in Terre Haute to a rustic lakeside cabin in Canada proved key in carving the path of his career.

Creason, ’88, won’t divulge the name of the lake that cabin overlooks.

“I don’t want too many people finding out about it,” he said with a grin.

In his youth, he spent time there with his older brother Geoffrey and their parents; today, he visits with his wife Cami, ’88, and two teenage daughters.

Acid rain that once tainted the lake — caused partly by nitrogen oxide emissions and other byproducts of fossil fuels — and the way in which his father explained that environmental phenomenon to him stuck with him.

“I saw firsthand the impacts of acid rain and the effects of mining on local land,” Creason said. Coal mining was a critical part of the Indiana economy.

Congress would go on to take steps to curb the acid rain problem, first in passing the Clean Air Act in 1972, then in adding specific language around acid-rain mitigation in 1990.

“The acid rain trading program was the first instance of cap-and-trade,” Creason said. “Its passage was a huge victory for environmental economics as a legitimate policy tool, and we achieved greater reduction in emissions at lower costs than anybody had thought possible. If there is one reason I do what I do, this is it.”

Jared’s late father, Woodrow Creason, who died in 2014 at age 93, taught economics for 35 years at Indiana State University. Beloved by decades of students, Woody invited many of them home for dinner with his own family (and even, Jared recalled, bailed one out of jail).

While Jared never took a course with his father, he soaked up a great deal of economic theory around the house, both from Woody and from his students, including Ross Hemphill, who hired Jared to work at Argonne National Laboratory in 1988.

“Dad said, ‘There are no environmental problems; there are only economic problems,’” Creason continued, sitting in a coffee shop near the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office where he works in Washington, D.C. “We know how to make clean air and clean water,’ he would say. The questions are, ‘How much is it going to cost and who is going to pay for it?’”

Both Creason sons grew up steeped in economic theory.

“As a little kid I’d say, ‘Dad, why do people throw trash in the street?’ And I’d get a lecture on the tragedy of the commons,” said Creason, who has worked at EPA since 1997. “I guess it’s no surprise that my introductory economics classes came easily to me, but I was excited by the practical applications.”

Jared Creason, '88, his older brother Geoffrey Creason and Geoffrey’s wife Sally, '76, GR '80, pose for a photograph with Corey’s Tree, which was planted in memory of Geoffrey and Sally’s late son Corey J. Creason, who died in 2012. At the time of his death, Corey had been a student at Indiana State’s College of Technology.

Jared Creason, ’88, his older brother Geoffrey Creason and Geoffrey’s wife Sally, ’76, GR ’80, pose for a photograph with Corey’s Tree, which was planted in memory of Geoffrey and Sally’s late son Corey J. Creason, who died in 2012. At the time of his death, Corey had been a student at Indiana State’s College of Technology.

Creason went on to earn a doctorate in agricultural and applied economics at the University of Minnesota in 1994. “I had wanted to teach, but when I (graduated), there were no academic jobs.” The EPA came calling.

“My dad was very stoic, but he was proud of me,” said Creason, recalling the day he told his father he’d been recruited by the agency. “Still, I think he was more excited about his (first) granddaughter being born.”

That was Miranda, born in 1997; Cassandra would follow in 2001.

“I used to say I’d pump gas before I’d move to Washington,” he said with a laugh.

Some 19 years in, though, he’s learned to love life on the East Coast. An accomplished bass player who minored in music at Indiana State, Creason has performed with D.C.-based bluegrass band Dead Men’s Hollow and numerous other acts for nearly 20 years. Dead Men’s Hollow has released five full-length albums and won numerous Washington Area Music Association awards (known as “Wammies”).

“A teacher at Indiana State told me, ‘If you play bass, you’ll never be out of work,” he recalled. “But for me, making music is really not about money: it’s about community.”

Jared and Geoffrey, as well as Geoffrey’s wife, Sally, ‘76, GR ’80, visited campus in January for the inaugural Woodrow Creason Memorial Lecture series.

“Working with young people and with ideas really motivated all of Dad’s activity with the university,” Jared said. “It is a gift to be able to enrich somebody’s life in a lasting way, as my father did with his students.”

A scholarship has been endowed in the late professor’s name. “Our family is pleased to see the work continue at ISU,” Jared Creason said. “It’s humbling to be that person’s legacy.”

To contribute, contact the Indiana State University Foundation to make a gift to the Woody Creason Memorial Scholarship.



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