Hundreds of students, colleagues, friends and family of Edward Gramlich packed into Annenberg Auditorium yesterday afternoon to honor the work and life of the long-time University professor and economist, who died at age 68 of acute myeloid leukemia Sept. 5.
Speakers and attendees described Gramlich as a good-natured man who was both compassionate and diligent. As Gramlich’s friends, coworkers and children shared memories, the audience sometimes laughed and sometimes cried.
In his career at the University, which spanned 40 years, Gramlich helped found and expand the Ford School Public Policy School. He also served as its dean.
From Sept. 2005 to May 2006, Gramlich served as interim provost.
Gramlich also served as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board and wrote books on economics. Gramlich is credited with predicting the current housing market downturn caused by sub-prime lending.
In the opening remarks, Public Policy Prof. John Chamberlin described how Gramlich’s students often good-naturedly teased Gramlich, who often went by Ned.
“The students responded in kind to Ned’s generous spirit and good humor, in part by skits and jokes,” Chamberlin said.
His students regularly lampooned Gramlich in the school’s underground newspaper, the Ipps Rips, but Gramlich was adored as a teacher and respected as an approachable administrator, Chamberlin said.
It was apparent at the memorial that the love felt for Gramlich came from more than his role as an educator. James Levinsohn, Public Policy and economics professor and a colleague and friend of Gramlich’s, stressed his loyalty.
“Ned was loyal to his friends, to his colleagues and to this university,” Levinsohn said in his speech. “In a low-key but unwavering way, Ned always did the right thing.”To his students, Gramlich was a mentor and a father figure.
School of Information Prof. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, one of Gramlich’s former students, described in his remarks how Gramlich taught him as an undergraduate, wrote recommendation letters for him in graduate school and stayed involved in MacKie-Mason’s life when they became colleagues.
MacKie-Mason said that when he was rejected from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gramlich called the school and “raised hell.” In the end, MacKie-Mason got his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“What was really important to me was that he was my mentor,” MacKie-Mason said. “He was my hero. He’s been a father figure for to me for 25 years. He never abandoned me and corresponded with me up until a few weeks before his death.”
University Librarian Paul Courant, a long-time friend of Gramlich’s, described his professional interests of how economics related to public policy.
“I’ve been personally and professionally close to Ned for 30 years, and yet when he died I was blown away by the obituaries written about Ned. They were talking about a giant and a sage and here I was mourning my friend,” Courant said. “His style of work was by turns empirical, theoretical, comparative, methodological and institutional. The unified theme of the work is public policy.”
Courant, growing emotional, then paused for a moment to collect himself.
“I’m sorry, I’m still not used to it,” Courant said quietly before continuing his remarks.
The last two to speak were Gramlich’s children, Rob Gramlich and Sarah Howard, who spoke together. They told stories of how their father loved kids and would never openly teach them economics. Instead, Gramlich tried to teach them through games and examples, like analyzing the fluctuating price of scalped football tickets.
“He taught us indirectly, doing things by taking a tax out of our ice cream,” Rob Gramlich said.
“Dad was a good teacher but he didn’t teach us through his books,” Howard said.
The audience was asked to rise and sing along to a song that reflected Gramlich’s love of baseball, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
After the memorial, Howard said she was surprised to see so many people at the event.
“All his students just worshipped him and I was like ‘That’s just Dad,’ ” Sarah said.