Robert Evenson

Professor of Economics, Professor, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Robert EvensonBob Evenson, B.A. and M.SC. in Agricultural Economics, the University of Minnesota, Ph.D. the University of Chicago, faculty member at Yale since 1969. You began as a farmer in Minnesota and became an agricultural economist par excellence. Just as the academy was moving trendily toward new fields in parallel processing and internet algorithms, you continued to uncover fundamental truths about the venerable and vital field of agriculture.

You began your research on U.S. agriculture, making important efforts in scores of papers to understanding the role of new genetic crop varieties in generating agricultural growth. After you joined Yale’s Economic Growth Center in 1969 and spent a stint in the seventies working with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, you increasingly directed your attention to the developing world. In the Philippines you found a paradoxical result: that the wild strains of rice lurking in the most remote parts of the earth made the greatest contribution to the crop’s genetic diversity. You pioneered there the collection of integrated household economic and farming data, which paved the way for blossoming research in the microeconomics of development. You also gave your attention to other parts of Asia, Africa, and Brazil, working with many local collaborators on economic issues. Your 1975 volume with Yoav Kislev on Agricultural Research and Productivity across many countries is a classic of the genre, widely admired and used. Your research made you an early and increasingly central contributor to the analysis of The Green Revolution and has encompassed foresighted concern with the relationship between growth and the environment. Beyond all of this your extensive work on patents illustrates your attention to science and technology issues as they are related to the practical needs of industry.

Through all your travel and research, you were no stranger to serious teaching and administrative work in New Haven. You served for several decades as Director of the International and Development Economics Masters Degree Program at the Economic Growth Center, and as the Director of the Economic Growth Center between 1997-2000. Extraordinarily caring mentor of students, you supervised large numbers of doctoral students, including many using the household data you collected in a Philippine village. You were widely known to work very hard to support students, even through the toughest of times. You cared very much for them—and your colleagues remember that they cared for you right back.

Bob Evenson, you came to Yale understanding that the mud on your shoes symbolized the intellectual relevance of your research, and you depart with even further layers, leaving a University grateful for your contributions to the pressing worldwide issues of food production and hunger in our time.

Tribute Editor: Penelope Laurans