In Memoriam of Dennis E. Smallwood


Photograph of Dennis Smallwood

Dennis Smallwood, Associate Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of California, San Diego, died suddenly on July 31. Smallwood was born June 10, 1942, in Michigan and grew up in and around Detroit. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1963, obtained an M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1964, and earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale in 1969. He was Assistant Professor at Princeton for three years and a Research Economist at Yale for one year before he joined UCSD's Department of Economics in 1971. He remained at UCSD until his retirement in 1994.

Between 1976 and 1993, he took several extended leaves to work as a Senior Economist at the RAND Corporation and at the Defense Department. From 1982 to 1984 he served as Operations Research Analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Strategic Offensive Forces Division; and as Acting Division Director in 1984. In 1989 he returned to the Department of Defense as Acting Director of the Economic Analysis and Resource Planning Division, becoming Chief Economist for the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Program Analysis and Evaluation. Among other contributions, he advised the Defense Department on how to reduce procurement costs. Following his retirement from UCSD he held the Bernard Rogers Chair in the Economics of National Security at the United States Military Academy for nine years. He retired from this position in 2005 and returned to La Jolla.

Trained in mathematics and statistics, Dennis understood and could produce technical arguments when necessary, but his research and teaching were firmly grounded in application. He developed an influential method for studying product quality and applied it in models of automobiles and professional services. He was an early contributor to the field of Law and Economics and was an expert on the insurance industry and the economics of health care. He wrote an influential report on long-term care insurance for the California Department of Insurance.

Dennis was one of the first ten people hired by the Economics Department and helped to develop the management science program. He and his wife Freya were important in the social life of the new department. They befriended newcomers as they arrived and were two of the people responsible for making the department a congenial place to work. Dennis treated his most junior colleagues as equals. He was also a dedicated teacher. He arrived at the department before sunrise and through the 1980s wrote his lecture notes by hand and distributed mimeographed copies to his students.

After his retirement from West Point, Dennis and Freya, married for 47 years, moved back to La Jolla. He taught several large core classes for the Economics Department and served on the Academic Senate's Faculty Welfare Committee. He also took several upper division courses in Math and Physics, outperforming students nearly fifty years younger than he was.

Dennis is survived by Freya, his two sons, Eden and Ivan, his daughter-in-law, Mutsumi, and two grandchildren, Conan and Lana. Dennis was a great colleague and a wonderful friend.

Richard Attiyeh, UC San Diego Emeritus Professor of Economics
John Conlisk, UC San Diego Emeritus Professor of Economics
Joel Sobel, UC San Diego Professor of Economics