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Week of August 13, 2012


Paul McCracken

Professor Emeritus Paul W. McCracken, a man who helped shape both U.S. economic policy in Washington, D.C., and the minds of business students at U-M, died Aug. 3 in Ann Arbor at the age of 96.

McCracken served as adviser in various capacities to several U.S. presidents, in addition to teaching. But his most prominent role came as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Richard Nixon.

“During the most difficult hours of my first term … I came to depend on Paul both for his incisive intellect and his hard-headed pragmatism. He was a key adviser during a crucial time in our nation’s history,” the former president wrote in 1985.

At the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, McCracken was the Edmund Ezra Day Distinguished University Professor (Emeritus) of Business Administration, Economics, and Public Policy, and kept regular hours at the school well after retiring. Until recently he was a fixture in the school’s common area, the Davidson Winter Garden, where he conversed with students and faculty.

“Professor McCracken was a national treasure, and we were fortunate to have him at Ross for so many years,” said Alison Davis-Blake, Edward J. Frey Dean and Stephen M. Ross Professor of Business. “We’re deeply saddened by his passing. Not only was he an excellent scholar, he was a worldly adviser who shared his wisdom with presidents in the White House and with students and colleagues in the Winter Garden. I loved seeing Paul frequent our building, long past his ‘retirement.’ He set a wonderful example for our current faculty and students, and is a testament to the enduring legacy of education.”

McCracken is survived by daughters Linda Langer and Paula McCracken. He was predeceased by his wife, Ruth (nee Siler).

A native of Iowa, McCracken first arrived on campus in 1948, having earned a bachelor’s degree from William Penn College (now William Penn University), and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He had been an economist and director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and, unusual for a business professor, briefly taught English at Berea College in Kentucky.

“I always joked that he was a closeted English professor at heart,” said Herb Hildebrandt, professor emeritus of business administration and professor emeritus of communication studies.

The two began a 54-year professional relationship and friendship over a hearty debate about the use of metaphors in political speeches.

McCracken described his economic philosophy as “Friedmanesque,” after noted economist Milton Friedman. His economic and policy acumen was recognized by leaders of both political parties, and he served as an adviser in various capacities for Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon and Gerald Ford, a U-M alumnus.

Friedman noted in 1985, “Paul McCracken has earned a deservedly high reputation in three different worlds: the academic, the governmental and the business … Few academics have achieved so wide a range of influence.”

McCracken was a member of the task force reporting to President Kennedy on the domestic economic situation and the balance of payments. He then was a member of President Johnson’s Commission on Budget Concepts.

Nixon, after being elected president in 1968, tapped McCracken to be his chief economic adviser. McCracken recalled the exchange in a 2011 interview:

“After Nixon won the election, the press started guessing who was going to get what job, and my name was mentioned as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers,” he said. “A guy with the Washington Post and I had become pretty well acquainted, and he called me up and said, ‘I hear your name mentioned frequently. Is it real?’ I said, ‘I have no idea. The president-elect hasn’t yet talked to me, so I guess it’s just fluff.’

“Literally the next day I had a telephone call from Nixon, the thrust of which was, ‘Can you come to New York?’ He was set up there at the time. When he asked me to take the job, I said I ought to at least take time to get home and talk to my wife about this. Nixon and I talked a while longer and he said, ‘You know, I have a press conference coming up in about 20 minutes, and I don’t have anything to tell them. Why don’t we just announce it?’ What are you doing to do? So I said, ‘Well, okay. I guess my wife can find out about it on the news.’”

McCracken’s challenge as chairman of the Council was to encourage policies that would ward off inflation, the chief concern at the time, while not increasing unemployment. According to the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, McCracken “displayed pragmatism and moderation, often characterized as gradualism.”

Nixon and McCracken eventually disagreed over the issue of wage and price controls, a tool some argued could help fight inflation. McCracken didn’t hold that view, and Nixon had his own reservations, but the president eventually enacted them. McCracken recalled the controversy:

“I thought price controls were a bad idea for a very simple reason. You couldn’t look back into history and point to a success story,” he said. “At the time, the president and Congress were involved in a battle in the political domain. Political battles are often more important to them than hard, solid data.”

McCracken resigned from the Council of Economic Advisers in late 1971. He did enjoy a lighthearted experience during that time, as he was depicted in a Doonesbury cartoon, a copy of which he kept in his U-M office.

McCracken’s time in the Nixon administration was recalled fondly by another former president, George H.W. Bush, who was ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time.

“I often think back to the days when you and I were both laboring away in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said in a goodwill message for McCracken’s 90th birthday in 2005. “I continue to have only the greatest admiration and respect for you. Some good things do happen to politicians in Washington, and one of the good things that I treasure was getting to know you and, to some degree, watch you in action.”

McCracken continued to teach at U-M, write papers and articles — including more than 70 for the Wall Street Journal — lecture and influence policy in many ways. He was a senior consultant to Nixon’s and Ford’s treasury secretary, William E. Simon, in 1974-75, and was chairman of the International Committee of Economists commissioned by the OECD in Paris. He also chaired the Academic Advisory Board for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

McCracken said that his experiences in Washington had a major impact on his teachings and research at Michigan.

“There is merit in being able to bring to class true-to-life stories on the complicated process of running a government, especially on its economic policy,” he wrote in recollections to his U-M colleague Hildebrandt. “To cast a stone is easy, but when one is involved in the process, it is easy to discern that application of economic theory is a highly complex matter, rarely deeply understood by the casual newspaper writer. Giving to classes the pragmatic and political nuances, both playing out simultaneously, was for me both invigorating and stimulating — or so I thought in discussions in the classroom.”

McCracken was awarded eight honorary degrees and gave more than 300 speeches. His research and commentary topics included monetary policy, international trade, budgets and economic strategy.

His influence was global, as his interests turned in his later years toward international economic issues and he was president of the Assembly on U.S.-Japanese Economic policy. Yet Hildebrandt says McCracken would be the last to trumpet his own accomplishments.

“Paul lived a life of ethical elegance,” he said. “He stubbornly believed that a fitting coda to one’s life should be that ethics and morality should walk hand in hand with whatever one does. He taught me many things, but most importantly, he taught me humility.”

Before his own death, President Ford summed up McCracken’s career on the professor’s 90th birthday:

“You and your family should be extremely proud of your many accomplishments and outstanding contributions to our great nation and the University of Michigan, which have been the beneficiaries of your unselfish, dedicated, and patriotic service,” Ford wrote in a letter. “Writing to you brings back many fond memories of our fine association.”

Mayer Zald

Professor Emeritus Mayer Zald, who was revered for his generosity in working with students and other scholars, died Aug. 7. He was 81.

Zald specialized in social movement theory, organizational theory, and on sociology as a science and humanities.

“What a wonderful person, colleague, friend,” wrote Pamela Smock, director, Population Studies Center, and a professor in sociology, on the Department of Sociology’s Facebook page. “Every interaction we had was filled with kindness, humor and attention. He was a listener in the best possible sense of the word.”

Mayer was “a distinguished scholar, a terrific colleague and a great person,” says Mark Mizruchi, the Barger Family Professor of Organizational Studies and professor of sociology and business administration. “This is a huge loss not only for the Department of Sociology and the University of Michigan, but for the entire academic community.”

Zald earned both his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees at U-M, arriving here to teach in 1977. He received a joint appointment on arriving at the university as professor of social work and professor of sociology, later also becoming professor of business administration. Before coming to Michigan, he served on the faculties of the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University. He served as chair in Vanderbilt’s sociology department.

At U-M, he provided a link between the Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science and the sociology department, where he served for two terms as chair of the department.

“Mayer was a valued School of Social Work faculty member,” says Ruth Dunkle, Wilbur J. Cohen Collegiate Professor of Social Work, and associate dean, Academic Programs in the School of Social Work. “He was more than generous in giving his time to social work faculty and students alike. His ability to translate theory into practice was remarkable and enriched the educational fabric of the school.”

Other colleagues and students remembered Zald for his willingness to help others and for his insights.

Michael Kennedy, formerly U-M first vice provost for international affairs and director of the International Institute, says “a flood of memories of this brilliant, decent and vulnerable man wash over me” upon learning of his friend’s death.

“I feel blessed to have been in his company,” says Kennedy, who now teaches sociology and international studies at Brown University. “He recruited me to Michigan; he invited me to co-chair a seminar on globalizations and movements with him; and more than that, offered not only counsel in career but solace in times of difficulty.”

Mayer didn’t allow his emeritus status, which he held since 2001, to keep him from participating in workshops, says graduate student Dan Hirschman. For example, last year Mayer spoke on a panel at sociology’s graduate student recruitment weekend about the future of social movement theory.

“Mayer Zald was the epitome of a dedicated, insightful, and considerate scholar. His passing was sudden, and he will be very sorely missed,” Hirschman says.

Zald was an author or editor of nearly two dozen books and edited collections and more than 60 articles, book chapters and review essays. His article with John McCarthy, “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory,” American Journal of Sociology (May 1977), is one of the most influential and frequently cited articles in the field and in the discipline.

His research accomplishments have garnered numerous awards and prizes, including election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and his selection as a Distinguished Senior Faculty Lecturer in LSA. In 2008, he received the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior from the Center for the Study of Social Movements and Social Change at Notre Dame.

He is survived by his wife Joan; daughter Ann and sons David and Harold; and two grandchildren. The Department of Sociology has planned a memorial service from 2-5 p.m. Sept. 29 in the Alumni Center.

— Submitted by Jared Wadley, News Service

Frederick W. Gehring

Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Frederick W. Gehring, a world-renowned mathematician, died May 29 at age 86.

Born in Ann Arbor, his association with U-M went back two generations to his grandfather, John Oren Reed, who was a member of the physics faculty and dean of LSA. In 1955 he began teaching mathematics at U-M. His long history of service at U-M includes three terms as chair of the Department of Mathematics. He retired in 1996.

Gehring was a leading figure in the field of quasiconformal mappings. Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships in 1958-60 allowed him to study in Helsinki and Zürich, where he began to learn about quasiconformal mappings.

In addition to his many honors, in 2006 the American Mathematical Society honored Gehring with a Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

Gehring supervised 29 Ph.D. students, many of whom are now faculty members at research universities, and he mentored more than 40 postdoctoral fellows.

He is survived by his wife Lois, his sons Kalle and Peter, two grandchildren and his sister Barbara Gehring. A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Alumni Center.

Read the full obituary at

Rudolph Thun

Rudolph Thun, professor of physics in LSA, died Aug. 6 at home. He was 68.

Thun, who was born in Dresden, Germany, on July 22, 1944, played a key role in the international ATLAS experiment at CERN that led to the recent discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

“Rudi was in many ways the veritable heart and soul of the University of Michigan ATLAS group and he will be sorely missed,” says Homer Neal, the Samuel A. Goudsmit Distinguished University Professor of Physics and the Michigan leader of ATLAS.


Thun and his family came to the United States in 1955. He received a bachelor’s in physics from Princeton University and a doctorate from the State University of New York at Stoney Brook in 1972. He has been a professor at U-M for 38 years. In describing his work with the ATLAS group, Neal says, “His ideal was to follow the data and to push our analysis like explorers into the unknown, uninhibited by excessive allegiance to speculative hypotheses.”

Thun was a novelist and painter who had diverse scientific interests outside physics. He also enjoyed spending time with family, playing chess, traveling and hiking, according to his Ann obituaray.

In lieu of flowers, his family encourages friends and colleagues to make a donation to The National Park Foundation. Services will be in Massachusetts.



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