Business and Public Policy Prof. Katherine Terrell, described by colleagues as an intelligent and engaging professor and a supportive mentor to her students, died Dec. 29 in the Dominican Republic as a result of respiratory complications.
Terrell was 59 and is survived by her husband, Prof. Jan Svejnar, and their two children, Daniel and Laura — both of whom are University graduates. Svejnar, a professor in the Business School and Public Policy School, did research work and co-wrote several books and scholarly articles with his wife.
Terrell’s teaching and research was focused on the impact of government policies and the effects globalization has had on wages, employment and income equality in developing economies like Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Terrell consulted for many international organizations like the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. She was also a visiting researcher at a handful of institutions throughout Europe.
Terrell taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Cornell University before coming to the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell in 1984 before joining the faculty at the University of Michigan’s Business School in 1996, eventually becoming director of the international business and economics Ph.D. program.
She also began teaching in the School of Public Policy in 2001, later helping to create the International Economic Development Program. Students in the IEDP study a specific developing country’s economy for seven weeks and then travel to the country for spring break. For many years, Terrell acted as the program’s faculty adviser, assisting students in the class to plan the curriculum and the trip.
Alan Deardorff, associate dean of the School of Public Policy, said Terrell took a very hands-on approach with her students, often mentoring them far beyond the course.
“She was very closely involved with (her students),” Deardorff said. “I think more than many of us would be. I think if I were teaching that course, I would be much more inclined to just leave the students totally on their own, but my impression is that she worked very closely with them and they really valued that.”
Public Policy graduate student Elizabeth Talbert was one of four students who helped plan the IDEP class trip with Terrell last year. She wrote in an e-mail interview that Terrell cared deeply about her students.
“I was lucky to get to know her beyond the classroom through working with her on this project,” Talbert wrote. “In the fall, she had the four of us over to her house and cooked delicious Moroccan chicken. She had an amazing way of gracefully crossing between her professional and personal lives.”
T.H. Gindling, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who worked closely with Terrell and collaborated on numerous scholarly articles with her, described her as “a passionate and strong, careful researcher.”
Gindling — who accompanied Terrell on several trips to Honduras and Costa Rica to present their research — said Terrell always viewed the visits as a learning opportunity.
“She was interested in finding out about the countries we were going to,” Gindling said. “She was always open and respected by the people we met, from people like the minister of labor of Honduras to the sellers in the streets.”
Deardorff said that Terrell’s respect for others could be felt in all of her personal interactions. Deardorff said he once mentioned to Terrell that his wife and a friend of hers were taking a trip to Prague. Terrell, whose family owns an apartment in the Czech capital, told Deardorff without hesitation that his wife was welcome to use the apartment.
“She and Jan were eager to get together with us and tell us everything about Prague and give my wife pointers on things to do there and how to get along.” Deardorff said, “And, after the trip, we got together again to talk about how it had gone. She was just so interested and eager to share with us. She was a wonderful friend.”
Visitation will be held tomorrow at the Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A memorial service is planned for Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom.