Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dr. Philip M. Raup 1914-2011

My Grandfather, Dr. Philip M. Raup, died last Thursday evening.  He lived to be 97 years old and was a notable man for the purposes of this blog.  He was a Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota and is one of the main reasons that I became interested in economics.

Gordon Raup, Sandra Raup, Joseph Ward, Marian Raup, Philip Raup (left to right)

Philip M. Raup was born in western Kansas on a family farm.  As with most people, his childhood defined his interests and in large part set his trajectory in life.  To pay for college, at the University of Kansas, he raised and sold turkeys rather than going into debt like myself and so many of my classmates.  He lived through the dust bowl, his family kept their farm, he met his wife and graduated university during the Great Depression.  He became a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. but enlisted in the Army after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.

He served under General Lucius Clay and rose to the rank of Lieutenant.  He used his knowledge of agricultural economics to help kick start a late German crop in 1945 which helped save a starving Germany that year.  Post-war Germans are estimated to have been eating only 1,080 calories a day between 1946 and 1947.  This is largely due to agricultural production being reduced 65% during the war.  Because of this, Germans were slowly starving at the end of the war.  They likely would have eaten less than that and general starvation may have occurred if not for the fast action of Raup and the Office of Military Government to initiate agriculture production plans that summer.  Grandpa Phil always seemed most proud of this moment in his professional life.

Upon returning to the United States, he acquired a Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin and a tenured Professor position at the University of Minnesota.  He started his family which became Philip Jr., Martha, and Gordon (my step-father).  Professionally, he mentored Ph. D students and became a worldwide expert on land tenure.  He toured many countries in a professional and personal capacity including the Soviet Union, eventually becoming a U.S. expert on Soviet agriculture policies.  He wrote or co-wrote several books and was published in respected journals such as The Journal of Economic History (!), Land Economics, Journal  of Farm Economics, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, and American Economic Review (!).  He was also a fellow of Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.  His career was reflected upon by W. Burt Sundquist (University of Minnesota), Gene Wunderlich (U.S. Department of Agriculture), Alex McCalla (University of California - Davis), and himself in this paper which was published by the University of Minnesota.

I can still remember sitting beside him at the dinner table while we discussed the politics of the day.  This was my introduction to politics.  After a bit of debate, Phil would often get up to grab an article or a map that would cut through the rhetoric at the table.  He believed, as every good economist does, that the data guides analysis and not the other way around.  I miss those dinner parties with my Grandmother Marian's terrific food and great conversations, but it is not for us to hold time.  He has passed into history and memory.

Philip & Marian Raup

As my Grandfather grew increasingly ill during my semesters learning economics, I began thinking about how economists relate to one another.  At my school, I have a number of professors, but I learn just as much from economists that I've never met before as I do from my current professors.  I learn from them in books.  Whether it's J.R. Hicks, Value and Capital or Adam Smith's On the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, I have learned much from economists that I have never met and lived hundreds of years before my time.  Their works are still as vital as they would be if they spoke them personally.  They have become featured voices in my essays.  Economics is just one aspect of a large intellectual conversation that spans all generations.  My grandfather contributed to that conversation and his voice will echo in future citations for years to come.

I am sad to see my Grandfather pass, but I am happy with and inspired by the life he lived.

Glenn Gould - "The Goldberg Variations"

1 comment:

  1. Joe, this is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!!!!!! Thank you so very much for honoring my father/your grandfather in this way. I have been doing webs for years,trying to honor my parents in an appropriate way, but you have leaped ahead of me, 'taken the bull by it's horns', and produced an excellent accolade. I am so proud of you, dear nephew. I LOVE the music, and the perfect picture of Mom and Dad in their heyday (a picture taken by me!), and the picture of you, your parents and your grandparents. I love every little bit of this. It brought tears to my eyes. Love You! So glad you're able to come to his memorial...