In Memoriam

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Brilliant economist, beloved professor

Carl Mantle Stevens ’42

A picture of Carl Stevens

December 28, 2007, in Oregon, following a long illness.

Carl Stevens earned his BA from Reed in economics. After graduation, he served four years in the U.S. Navy aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Stembel in the Pacific Theatre.

In 1946, he married Janice Robinson ’44; they had a daughter and son. Carl then studied economics at Harvard, earning an MA in 1950 and a PhD the following year. From 1951 to 1954, he was a postdoctoral fellow in behavior science at Yale University's Institute of Human Relations and also was assistant professor in economics.

Prof. Stevens joined the Reed faculty in economics in 1954, returning to Harvard three times during leaves and sabbaticals from the college. He served on technical advisory groups for the U.S. Agency for International Development; as a consultant to the World Health Organization in Geneva; and as a member of the National Advisory Health Manpower Council of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the Committee on Political Discrimination of the American Economic Association, and the governing board of the American Association of University Professors; and as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He published numerous articles and reports related to public health, health economics, and to his work as a consultant for a vast international community. In 1990, he retired from Reed as professor emeritus.

In retirement, Carl and Janice founded the nonprofit Family Health and Education Planning for family planning and education activities in India and Sub-Saharan Africa; they worked without compensation. “The project is our gift to the felicity of mankind,” Stevens stated.

Prof. Peter Steinberger [political science  1977–], dean of the faculty, noted that Stevens was a faculty member of unusual distinction, whose work in a variety of areas—including bargaining and arbitration, labor economics, and health care policy—was known and respected nationally and internationally. He also remarked that Stevens' pursuit of scholarly projects, vigorously and productively during his retirement years, brought great credit to the college.

In his remembrance of Stevens, grandson Joshua D. Simon ’05 recollected numerous ways that Stevens affected not only his life but also the lives of others, as a mentor, adviser, intellectual, teacher, and a citizen of the world: “My grandfather's accomplishments outside academe and international development are as impressive as those within; he truly managed a full life, refusing to be dominated by professional demands. He was a professor who always carried a Swiss-Army knife in his pocket, useful for everything from tinkering with the tractor he used to maintain the 13 acres of waterfront property he lived on with my grandmother to opening bottles of Miller High Life. An amateur poet, he produced a volume of animal-themed verse, annotated with historical and philosophical footnotes for the edification of his younger readers. He was also an incredibly generous adviser, father, and grandfather—anyone that has sat with him can attest to his impressive mind and quick wit. To discuss almost any subject with my grandfather was to embark upon a lengthy journey in which one's thoughts would be perceptively analyzed, criticized, broken down, and rebuilt, leaving one a bit unsure of where they stood, but much entertained with jokes and catch-phrases in the process.”

Lois Hobbs, administrative assistant to the faculty, stated that Stevens “was a giant in every sense: a giant of a man, a giant of a humanitarian, and a giant of a friend who never lost the common touch. One of Carl's notable statements is posted as a quote on the bulletin board outside my office: 'I try to encourage in my students an intellectual style that is deliberate, particularly focused and critical. I hope that they develop the habit of wondering, “Is it true? How do we know? And if it is true, so what?”' With some prompting, he would share a story or two from a seemingly limitless archive. The stories were all entertaining, but they revealed he was an intelligent, wise, kind, and humble gentleman with an independent spirit.”

Survivors include his wife, his son, and five grandsons.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 2008

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