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Daniel Richard Siegel ’79

Daniel Richard Siegel ’79, September 1, 1991, in Seattle, Washington, from a heart attack. Daniel earned a BA from Reed in economics, writing the thesis "An Artificial Supply-Demand Mechanism for the Local Externalities Case" with adviser Arthur Leigh [economics 1945–88]. His sister Naomi Siegel Soderstrom ’82 also graduated from Reed. In 1983, Daniel earned a PhD in economics and taught at Northwestern University before accepting a position on the faculty at the University of Washington. He was married to Diane Freeman ’79, with whom he wrote and published Future Markets in 1990. In January 2015, Stephen Levien ’80 shared the following memorial piece for Daniel, which was written by O. Casey Corr and published in the Seattle Times on September 24, 1991.

"Daniel Siegel, 35; UW Professor, Internationally Known Economist"

When the University of Washington's Business School set out to hire an outstanding scholar to fill a newly endowed professorship, it selected Daniel Siegel, who, at 34, was already internationally prominent in economics.

Mr. Siegel won over students and faculty with his brilliance, wit and kindness. A promising future loomed for him.

But he suffered a heart attack Sept. 16 while bicycling on the UW campus. The Pigott/PACCAR Professor of Business Administration died four days later. He was 35. He had been taking medication for an irregular heartbeat but otherwise was in good health.

"He would have been a giant," said Robert Leventhal, dean of the Business School. "He was a giant. And he was such a nice person."

Leventhal described Mr. Siegel as brilliant in his field, but also with a wide range of interests. A delight to talk with. "Every time he came in, he was so stimulating," said Leventhal.

In academics, change comes slowly. Books take years to write. Daniel Siegel produced two books (including one co-authored with his wife, Diane Siegel), and more than 12 major articles. He won two teaching awards, won large grants and had won approval of a major new program on the environment at the Business School.

As busy as he was with work that took him across the country and even abroad, he helped other professors with their projects, stopping at their offices when he thought of an idea and returning again when another solution came to mind.

As brilliant as he was, he always made people feel they were sharing in the discovery. Many things interested him. On a recent hike in the mountains, he stopped to talk to other hikers.

"He was the most unpretentious genius I ever met," said Craig Gannett, a Seattle lawyer. "He made everyone he came in contact with feel special."

Mr. Siegel came to UW as a distinguished visiting professor, on leave from a tenured position at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, one of the top business schools.

Mr. Siegel so impressed students and faculty that when the Pigott professorship was created, the choice seemed obvious.

"He was truly an exceptional person," said Larry Schall, chairman of the department of finance and business economics. "It's remarkable for somebody to have been here such a short time and have made such an impact on a personal as well as an academic level."

Mr. Siegel did pioneering studies of the futures market, where commodities are bought or sold in the future at an agreed-upon price, particularly as it applied to natural resources.

Before his death, Mr. Siegel was trying to raise money for a certificate program he suggested at the Business School. His goal was to create a link between business interests and environmentalists.

No other business school has such a program, said Ed Rice, associate professor of finance and business economics. Mr. Siegel was also planning to teach a class on how different cultures approach ethical decisions in business.

Given that most scholars have careers that stretch decades, everyone expected Siegel's reputation, already impressive, to grow.

"I've never seen the school in such a depressed state," said Schall on the reaction to Mr. Siegel's death.

Mr. Siegel grew up in Eugene, Ore., earned his bachelor's degree at Reed College in Portland and his Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Spokane attorney Les Weatherhead was a friend of Mr. Siegel's since the seventh grade. Even as a boy, Mr. Siegel was brighter than most people but never was impatient with others.

As teenagers, some of their friends would ridicule others, but Mr. Siegel counseled his friends to be warmhearted.

"God, he was such a good guy," Weatherhead said of his friend. "I never heard him give anybody a hard time."

Mr. Siegel is survived by his wife, Diane, and their children, Nina, 4, and Joel, 2; his parents, Barry and Jetta Siegel of Eugene; a sister, Naomi Soderstrom of Seattle, and a brother, Ronald Siegel of San Francisco.

A public memorial will be held in the UW's Kane Hall at 10 a.m. Sunday. Remembrances may be sent to the Daniel Siegel Memorial Fund in care of the University of Washington School of Business.

Appeared in Reed magazine: online only

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