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Obituary for W. Allen Wallis

October 12, 1998

Former University President and Noted Economist Dies

W. Allen Wallis, former president and chancellor of the University of Rochester and an economic advisor to four U.S. presidents, died Monday, October 12, 1998, in Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, N.Y.

Mr. Wallis, who was 85 and lived in Washington, D.C., fell ill while in Rochester to attend memorial services for William H. Meckling, whom he had appointed as dean of what is now the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration.

An internationally known free-market economist and statistician who had been dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Mr. Wallis came to the University of Rochester as president in 1962 and led its transformation into a major national university. After he retired from the University, he served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in the Reagan administration.

In recent years Mr. Wallis continued to visit the University periodically for events involving the College and the Simon School. At the inauguration of Thomas H. Jackson as president in 1994, Mr. Wallis joined other former University presidents Robert L. Sproull and Dennis O'Brien for the ceremonies, creating a memorable tableau of University leadership.

"Allen Wallis's legacy at the University of Rochester is permanent and extraordinarily positive," said Jackson. "He was a man of absolute integrity and perseverance, who had a clear academic vision and an insistence on the highest academic standards. Not only was he instrumental in the transformation of the University to a national institution of the first rank, but his continuing mark on this institution is clear today, as many of our strongest schools and programs can be directly traced back to leadership that Allen was instrumental in bringing to Rochester.

"Until the very end, Allen was an individual of extraordinary intelligence, from whom I continued to learn a great deal, not just about the University of Rochester but about higher education in general," Jackson continued. "Allen proved that individuals matter and we are all so very much the better for it."

Sproull, who succeeded Mr. Wallis as president in 1970 and as chief executive officer in 1975, noted: "Allen Wallis was the principal architect of the University of Rochester as we see it today. He worked with giants like William Riker and Lionel McKenzie [renowned professors in political science and economics, respectively] to bring here the able and highly productive faculty who have been the key leaders of the post-World War II development of their departments and their disciplines.

"He had the greatest respect for universities as institutions and the highest principles in defending them," Sproull said. "He repeatedly elevated campus discourse from the bumper-sticker level to the level of profound thinking and analysis."

Born in 1912 in Philadelphia, Mr. Wallis received his bachelor's degree in psychology magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1932. He did graduate work at Minnesota in economics, then in 1933 received a University Fellowship in economics at the University of Chicago, where he formed lifelong friendships with future Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and George Stigler. More than 40 years later, Mr. Wallis, who was then chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, would introduce a television producer to Friedman, leading to the production of Friedman's PBS series Free to Choose.

From 1942 to 1946, Mr. Wallis-in his early 30's-served as director of research for the U.S. Office of Scientific Research's Statistical Research Group. He recruited a stellar group of young statisticians, economists, and mathematicians who contributed significantly to the war effort by solving problems ranging from optimal patterns of submarine search to efficient testing of naval artillery shells.

Mr. Wallis began his career of academic and government service in the 1930s. He was an economist and statistician on the National Resources Committee from 1936 to 1937 and taught at Yale, Columbia, and Stanford universities before joining the faculty of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in 1946.

After being named dean of the school in 1956, Mr. Wallis and Associate Dean James H. Lorie formulated a philosophy, the "Chicago Approach to Business Education," which emphasized teaching underlying scientific knowledge and procedures as a basis for solving business problems. The "Chicago Approach" has become the dominant mode of graduate business education.

Mr. Wallis was in Chicago when he accepted the post of president of the University of Rochester. In 1970, Mr. Wallis was named chancellor, the only time in this century that the position has existed at the University.

One of Mr. Wallis's first projects after arriving in Rochester was to develop a Faculty Senate and initiate long-range planning based on optimal sizes of academic departments, with student enrollments and space requirements derived from the basic academic plan.

Based on that plan, which underscored the need for expansion and updating of facilities, Mr. Wallis initiated a major successful capital campaign that raised $46.7 million, almost $10 million more than the goal. Over a 10-year period beginning in 1968, the University remodeled the Eastman School of Music; added half a million square feet of buildings to the River Campus, including a library addition and the construction of Wilson Commons; increased the Medical Center by more than 700,000 square feet, and added more than 600,000 square feet in residential space.

Under Mr. Wallis, the University's annual budget rose from $33 million to $200 million, the faculty rose by 37 percent, the number of graduate students doubled and the undergraduate student body increased by 45 percent. The Wall Street Journal wrote in 1976 that Mr. Wallis had "guided the transition of the University of Rochester from a largely provincial institution to a major national university."

As an economist, Mr. Wallis was noted for his strong belief in free markets and minimal government intervention. His 1976 book, An Overgoverned Society, a collection of essays and speeches written over three decades, was critically acclaimed for showing how bureaucratic rules and regulations were shackling both the economy and individual freedoms. He often wore a tie with the silhouette of 18th-century, free-market economist Adam Smith.

Mr. Wallis also had served as editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association, chairman of the executive committee of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, member of the executive committee of the American Economics Association, and president of the American Statistical Association, which presented Wallis with its highest award, the Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Medal, in 1980.

Mr. Wallis served Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. From 1959 to 1961, he was special assistant to President Eisenhower and worked with then Vice President Nixon as executive vice chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Price Stability for Economic Growth. President Eisenhower later spoke at Wallis's inauguration as president of the University of Rochester.

During the 1970s, Mr. Wallis served in the Nixon and Ford administrations as a member of the National Council on Educational Research and the National Commission on Productivity, and as chair of the President's Commission on Federal Statistics and of the Advisory Council on Social Security.

In 1982, Mr. Wallis was named Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs under his long-time friend and academic colleague, Secretary of State George Shultz. At the State Department, Mr. Wallis coordinated U.S. economic programs and policies abroad and served as President Reagan's advance man and advisor for several major international economic summits. Secretary Shultz, on learning of Mr. Wallis's death, said, "Allen Wallis set the highest of standards for himself and everyone around him: careful and disciplined thought, a delightful capacity for wry humor, absolute integrity.

"As Under Secretary of State in the Reagan years, he was our truth teller. He had universal respect and admiration. I relied on him. His contributions to our work were immense. He was a true patriot and an intellectual giant, with a wonderful capacity for friendship. I salute him and I will cherish his memory."

The stories of Mr. Wallis's broad intellect, statistical bent, and acerbic humor are legend among friends and colleagues. Chicago colleague James H. Lorie often told the story of their first encounter, in the elevator of the Hyde Park building where they both happened to live. As Wallis stepped in the elevator and they both stood waiting for the door to close, Lorie offered, "It takes a long time for the door to close, doesn't it?" "Yes," Wallis immediately responded, "19 seconds."

Mr. Wallis's philosophy of economic freedom was reflected in his championship of individual and academic freedom. He advocated abolishing the draft and was appointed to a presidential commission on the draft that recommended ending conscription. The draft was abolished in 1973.

During the turbulent Vietnam era, Mr. Wallis backed the controversial appointment of Eugene Genovese as a professor in the history department in 1969. Genovese, a Marxist and Socialist, had left Rutgers University after being attacked by President Nixon for his views on the Vietnam War. Mr. Wallis examined Genovese's academic qualifications and concluded that the professor's political beliefs had not intruded into his professional role at Rutgers. (Genovese later earned national and international repute for his work in slave history.)

In recognition of Mr. Wallis's dedication to the combined study of economics and politics, the W. Allen Wallis Institute of Political Economy at the University of Rochester was named in honor of the former president and chancellor. The Institute, which opened in December 1992, supports study on how market forces are influenced by political institutions. The Institute is a research and teaching collaboration between the nationally recognized Department of Economics and Department of Political Science.

Mr. Wallis was predeceased by his wife of 59 years, Anne Armstrong Wallis, and by his sister, Virginia Wallis Bowers. Mr. Wallis is survived by two daughters, Nancy Wallis Ingling of Gambier, Ohio, and Mrs. Virginia Wallis Cates of Wagon Mound, N.M., and Jack Cates, her husband; and three grandchildren, Barbara Ingling Wharton and her husband Andrew Wharton of Centerburg, Ohio, Allen Wallis Ingling of Nashville, Tenn., and Carl Thomas Ingling of Gambier, Ohio.

Donations may be made to the W. Allen Wallis Institute of Political Economy memorial fund, University of Rochester, P.O. Box 270158, Rochester, NY 14627-0158.