Robert C. Holland, an economist who became the first staff member of the Federal Reserve System to be appointed directly to its Board of Governors, died Jan. 3 at his home in Centreville. He was 87.

He had complications from dementia, said his son, Timothy Holland.

Dr. Holland worked from 1949 to 1961 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where he became a vice president and chief lending officer. He then settled in the Washington area and held research and administrative staff positions at the Board of Governors, including executive director from 1971 to 1973.

Members of the Board of Governors had traditionally been outside appointments, generally business leaders or economists from academia. When a position on the board opened up in 1973, then-Fed Chairman Arthur F. Burns advocated for a staff member who knew the inner workings of the system, Timothy Holland said. Burns selected Dr. Holland.

President Richard M. Nixon appointed Dr. Holland to the Board of Governors to fill out the unexpired three years of Fed governor J. Louis Robertson’s 14-year term.

After leaving the Fed in 1976, Dr. Holland worked until 1990 as president of the Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit public policy group of business leaders and educators.

From 1990 to 2005, Dr. Holland was a senior fellow at the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management at the Wharton School, the noted business school at the University of Pennsylvania. His years at Wharton were chiefly focused on promotion of business ethics.

Robert Carl Holland was a native of Tekamah, Neb., and served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II. He was a 1948 finance graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he also received a master’s degree in economics in 1949 and a doctorate in economics in 1959.

He was active in the Lutheran church on the local and national level. He was a past member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Washington, where he taught Sunday school for eighth-graders and led the adult Sunday school for many years. His other memberships included the Cosmos Club.

His wife, DeEtte Hedlund Holland, whom he married in 1947, died in 1993. Survivors include three children, Joan Geltz of Centreville, Nancy Kerr of Newport Beach, Calif., and Timothy Holland of Towson, Md.; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.