In Remembrance

 

 

George S. Tolley
November 12, 1925 - August 31, 2021

George Tolley was a Chicago economist through-and-through. After serving in the US Army during World War II and earning his BA in economics from American University, he came to the University of Chicago to work on his PhD, which he earned in 1955. After an eleven year stint at North Carolina State University, George returned to the University of Chicago in 1966 as a Professor of Economics and remained here until he became an emeritus professor in 2000. George was a familiar presence in the hallways until very recently, and he continued teaching here until 2018.

George made important original academic contributions. From his graduate student days onward, he was an integral part of the highly regarded group of agricultural economists at the University of Chicago that included D. Gale Johnson and T.W. Schultz. He did early research measuring rural poverty. He was a pioneer in the areas of Environmental, Urban, and Energy Economics. His ability to move across fields was a hallmark, distinguishing his work by its interdisciplinary and policy relevance. Among his many accomplishments, George was an internationally recognized leader in the development and application of techniques for measuring costs and values that are determined outside of conventional markets. He applied these techniques to the valuation of urban and environmental amenities and improvements in health and medical treatments, among others. He used such estimates successfully in regulatory proceedings and court cases.

George very much enjoyed working with students and colleagues, giving his time generously to exchanging ideas, providing advice or establishing joint or collaborative projects. He was known as a prolific mentor, ushering into the field a large number of economists, many of whom also rose to prominence in public service, financial institutions, and universities around the world.

George was a former Director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Chicago, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He was a founding editor of the journal Resource and Energy Economics. He held visiting professorships at the University of California at Berkeley, Purdue University, Nankai University, and Guelph University. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Honor A Colleague award by the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis.

In addition to his academic work, George was president of RCF Economic & Financial Consulting. He also held executive positions in the Federal government including Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy, and Director of the Economic Development Division of the Economic Research Service at the US Department of Agriculture. He consulted widely for federal, state, and municipal agencies, as well as international organizations like the World Bank, on the problems of urban and environmental economics from the 1960s until only a few years ago, both as an academic and in his capacity as President of RCF. His expertise was requested in numerous international studies taking him to Korea, China, Japan, Venezuela, Panama, Iran, Thailand, The Gambia, Israel and Egypt.

In his spare time, George enjoyed gourmet food and restaurants, travel, art, and music. He was an excellent pianist and composed his own music. He believed in celebrating important occasions and loved spending time with his family. His favorite saying was “We’re all in this together.”

 


 

 

Michael Whittaker Jones-Lee
April 3, 1944 – February 22, 2021


Emeritus Professor Michael Whittaker Jones-Lee was a pioneering researcher in the economics of safety policy and risks to human life and health. He was appointed Departmental Chair in Economics at Newcastle University (UK) in 1977 and Adjunct Professor of Risk Management, University of Stavanger, Norway, from 2007 – 2012.  He retired in 2010 and was accorded the title of Emeritus Professor. In 2019, he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Society for Benefit Cost Analysis. He remained actively engaged in research up until his death.

His research had a fundamental influence on UK policy appraisal. He was central to the adoption of a preference-based measure of a Value of Statistical Life, first in the UK and later in the EU and New Zealand. This superseded Gross Output based measures; a change that reflected his strong ethical belief that people are more than the sum of their (discounted) lifetime productivity. In return, he provided economists with a rigorous theoretical framework to underpin their subsequent research into economics of safety and physical risk (see for example the two books Jones-Lee (1976; 1989), as well as carrying out a number of pioneering empirical studies of his own.  A related area of great interest to him was that of altruism and safety. His work in this area continues to be a source of scholarly pleasure for us all.  Mike published many articles on the economics of safety in numerous journals, but the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty was particularly close to his heart and for which he served as Associate Editor. 

Over his long career, he also worked on substantial contracts for the Department for Transport, the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, Railtrack, Health and Safety Executive and Department of Health. He acted as Specialist Advisor to the Enquiry into Government’s Policy on the Management of Risk by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs.  

His passing is a loss to his family, friends and colleagues, the Society and the field more generally. He was a brilliant economist - who also held a degree in Mechanical Engineering  of which he was very proud - with a wicked sense of humor. A great combination in a truly unique person.
 



Jerry Ellig
September 19, 1962 – January 20, 2021


Dr. Jerry Ellig was a research professor at The George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center and long-time member of the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis. His research focused on regulatory impact analysis, regulation of network industries, and performance management in government.

In 2017-18, Dr. Ellig served as chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission.  Between August 2001 and August 2003, he served as deputy director and acting director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission.  Dr. Ellig has also held positions at George Mason University and the  Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Ellig was a frequent contributor to the Society’s annual meetings. He has presented work related to economic analysis and litigation risk, the organization of economists at Federal regulatory agencies, and USDA rulemaking. He also contributed to a popular Society workshop on deregulatory benefit-cost analysis. He also published numerous articles on government regulation and management in both scholarly and popular periodicals, including the Journal of Benefit-Cost AnalysisJournal of Regulatory EconomicsRegulation and GovernancePublic ChoiceJournal of Empirical Legal Studies, and Managerial and Decision Economics. In addition, he published in the broad-circulation media including the Wall Street JournalNew York TimesBarron’s, and Washington Post.  

His sudden passing is a loss to the Society and the field more generally. His good humor and insights will be greatly missed.
 


Martin Weitzman
April 1, 1942 - August 27, 2019

Dr. Martin Weitzman was an outstanding researcher and teacher at Harvard University. He is widely known for arguing that benefit-cost analyses of climate change needed to account for small, but real, risks of catastrophic outcomes. He also provided a lot of the framework for cap-and-trade approaches to limiting pollution and climate change and for thinking about how to discount major events in the distant future. In commenting on his death, William D. Nordhaus remarked that “Marty Weitzman was the pre-eminent environmental economist of the modern era, which is to say of all times.”
 
Dr. Weitzman influenced hundreds of students during his teaching career at Yale, MIT, and Harvard. Since 1992, he and his colleagues conducted nearly 400 sessions of the Harvard Seminar in Environmental Economics and Policy.
 
His obituary in the New York Times provides a nice overview of his life and contributions. We at the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis will miss his insights and collegiality.