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November 9, 2000

Obituary: Reuben E. Slesinger

Reuben E. Slesinger, who taught economics at Pitt for more than 60 years, died Oct. 30, 2000, in West Penn Hospital of a heart attack following a brief illness. He was 84.

In addition to his faculty position, Slesinger served as associate dean, Division of Social Sciences, from 1966 to 1973.

Although he officially retired in 1986, Slesinger maintained a regular teaching schedule until the week before his death. During his career, Slesinger taught economics to an estimated 60,000 students, spanning three generations.

He was an inspiration to colleagues and students alike, said Jack Ochs, his friend and fellow Pitt economics professor. "Dr. Slesinger's concern for students extended well beyond the classroom. His guidance and counsel were frequently sought and generously given," Ochs said.

Frank Giarratani, former associate dean and department chair, said, "More than any other faculty member that I have ever known, Reuben Slesinger was beloved by his students. He had a rare gift. He was able to reach out across generations to communicate his ideas. Many teachers strive for that ideal; Dr. Slesinger achieved it."

Herbert Chesler, another colleague, said former students always remembered Slesinger fondly and never failed to ask about him. "Whenever people think about economics at Pitt, they think of Reuben Slesinger. Perhaps it is because his creed was: 'Students don't fail. Only teachers fail.'"

Upon Slesinger's official retirement at age 70, a fund was established in his name, enabling the economics department to recruit and assist graduate students and to perpetuate Slesinger's scholarly legacy.

Slesinger wrote or co-authored several books and more than 50 articles in professional and business journals. His latest book, "The Economic Way of Thinking," 4th edition, was published in 1995.

Slesinger published articles on forensic economics in the Journal of the American Bar Association, the European Journal of Law and Economics, the Pittsburgh Law Journal and elsewhere. (Forensic economics assesses, among other things, the economic value of damages arising when contracts are broken in tort or breach of contract actions.) He also served as a consultant to the Department of Justice, the Federal Power Commission and to various corporations and law firms. Slesinger received an award for distinguished service and contributions to the field by the National Association of Forensic Economists.

Slesinger lectured in continuing education programs at the law schools of both Pitt and Duquesne University and taught a course in forensic economics at Point Park College. For the last three decades, Slesinger delivered annual national economic forecasts, which were covered by the local news media.

Slesinger earned three degrees in economics here: a B.S. in 1936, an M.A. in 1938 and a Ph.D in 1940. He also studied at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin.

A World War II veteran, Slesinger was a recipient of the Legion of Merit. He was a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. Slesinger lectured at the Army War College and the Armed Services Staff College.

Slesinger was an active member of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, where he was president of the congregation from 1974 to 1976. He organized and regularly conducted programs for clergy on economics and public policy. In recognition of this work, Slesinger received the Olin Davis Award for Distinguished Service in Economic Education for Clergy.

He is survived by his wife, Natalie; a daughter, Diane Tepper, and two sons-in-laws, Ronald Tepper and Michael Smith.

The family is establishing a fund in Slesinger's honor at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Wilkins and Shady avenues, Pittsburgh 15217. Memorial contributions also may be made to the Pitt economics department's Sle-singer Fund.

A Pittsburgh campus memorial service is being planned.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 6

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