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In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus of Economics Frank Wykoff

Frank Wykoff, professor emeritus of economics, has passed away.

Wykoff served as a member of the Pomona College economics faculty for 40 years—from 1968 until his retirement as the Elden Smith Professor of Economics in 2008. Known by students and colleagues alike as a straight-talker with a bold sense of humor and an ability to push, cajole and encourage his students to question their own beliefs and exceed their own expectations, he was a stalwart of the Economics Department, teaching extremely rigorous intermediate and advanced courses in macroeconomics that were a key requirement for the major.

“Frank Wykoff is dedicated to challenging students’ thinking, which is crucial to the success of a liberal arts education,” one of his students once wrote. “He consistently tries to make students justify their beliefs and is committed to helping students understand how the world works. His direct manner is refreshing.”

Wykoff devoted his entire academic career to Pomona, where he generated an encyclopedic curriculum vita. He authored or co-authored several books, including a 1976 textbook titled Macroeconomics: Theory, Evidence, and Policy and a 2008 examination of the newly capitalist states of Eastern Europe titled Creating Capitalism: Transitions and Growth in Post-Soviet Europe. He also had a long list of published articles on topics ranging from asset depreciation to banking reform in Eastern Europe. From 1989 to 1997 he served as editor in chief of Economic Inquiry, Journal of the Western Economic Association.

Some of his most important work as an economist, however, took place outside academia, including a series of papers on commercial banking for the National Bureau of Economic Research in the late 1980s. He was also dedicated to promoting a better understanding of economic issues among the journalists who wrote about the topic for the nation’s newspapers. From 1979 to 1997, he served as academic dean of the Foundation for American Communications (FACS) and director of its Institute on Economics for Journalists, a summer workshop designed to teach journalists the rudiments of economics so that they could understand the underlying economic issues in their stories rather than writing what he liked to call “he-said-she-said stories.” In addition, he published extensively in publications for journalists, explaining come of the complexities of economic theory and practice.

Among his many honors were grants and fellowships from the Peter and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Lincoln Foundation, IBM, the NSF and the Brookings Institution.

A dedicated runner, he was a strong supporter of Pomona’s track and field and cross country teams. He and his wife were also avid campers, taking many family camping trips, often together with good friends from the faculty. Typical of his iconoclastic sense of humor, when asked to provide a photo for his emeritus page on the Pomona College website, he submitted a photo of himself standing ankle-deep in a stream, holding a fishing rod.