Development economist, long-time prof, dies at 77

Larry Sjaastad had an impact across the globe through is work in South American and beyond.

By Madhu Srikantha

Larry Sjaastad (Ph.D. ’61), a professor emeritus in the economics department who spent 42 years at the University and was widely renowned for his hands-on work with developmental economics in South American countries, passed away earlier this month due to complications from surgery. He was 77.

Robert Lucas (Ph.D. ’64), the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and the College, said that even as a graduate student, Sjaastad’s work earned the praise of professors.

“He was a star of his class,” Lucas said. “All my teachers talked about Larry’s thesis, saying, ‘This is the way you write a thesis.’”

Sjaastad retired from teaching at the end of the 2003–2004 academic year after 42 years at the U of C. During that time, he mentored 139 Ph.D. candidates through their graduation. When he retired, two of his former students, Kenneth Clements and MoonJoong Tcha compiled “The Larry Sjaastad Letters,” a collection of almost 300 letters from well-wishers around the world describing how he had impacted their lives.

In 2008, the alumni association granted Sjaastad the Norman Maclean Faculty Award, recognizing his excellence in teaching over the course of his tenure at the University.

Sjaastad is survived by his wife, Irene Glasner, and two sons, John and Michael, according to the Chicago Tribune.