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A Celebration of the Life of R. Robert Russell

February 17, 1938 - August 24, 2023

Tribute Archive

Robert Russell was born in Rock Springs, WY. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University. After graduation, Robert held a faculty position at UC Santa Barbara. Robert joined the UC San Diego Economics Department in 1973 and remained until 1978. He then worked as Director of President Carter's Council on Wage and Price Stability, at the Brookings Institution, and at New York University. He returned to California in 1986 and held a chaired Distinguished Professorship in UC Riverside's Economics Department until his retirement in 2010.

Robert Russell was extraordinarily productive, with a steady stream of work distinguished by its theoretical rigor, intellectual honesty, and close connection between theory and empirical regularities. He is perhaps best known for his work in consumer and producer theory, exemplified by his monumental monograph with Blackorby and Primont, "Duality, Separability, and Functional Structure," which will likely remain the bible in its area for generations to come. (While finalizing this intensely mathematical book's proofs, he facetiously developed a model to estimate the total number of typos from those he observed in successive proof readings, concluding that the book had an infinite number of typos.)

Robert was one of UC San Diego's earliest faculty members, who shaped the Department in many important ways that we now take for granted. He was a conscientious and insightful scholar, who commented generously and kindly on the work of students and colleagues. He was a good judge of talent and helped to identify and recruit several long-serving faculty members. He was a good friend outside of work, playing basketball, running, cycling, and climbing with those who could keep up with him. Perhaps most importantly, Robert's subtle and self-deprecating humor contributed to the Department's congeniality and added greatly to the pleasure of working there. Once, seeing a new colleague thinking about how best to walk from the parking lot to the Department's then home in Galbraith Hall, he said without hesitation, "155 steps this way, 153 that way." At a Department party with a particularly lavish spread, he said, to another diet-challenged colleague, "I just love standing here not eating this stuff."

Robert is survived by his partner in life of 42 years, his wife Kathleen Montgomery; two sons and their wives, Jeffrey and Nathalie Russell and Kevin and Kay Russell; two stepsons and their wives, Mike and Tammy Adgate and Steve and Carla Adgate; six granddaughters Syrah, Alyssa, Josie, Rebecca, Jennifer, and Carleigh; his sister Jean Laird; and a large and cherished extended family of nieces, nephews, in-laws, and half-siblings. His son Jeffrey received a Ph.D. in Economics from UC San Diego and is now a professor at the University of Chicago. Robert's first wife, Judy Honey, the mother of his sons, died in 2019.