Recent Division of the Social Sciences obituaries.
Evelyn Stefansson Nef, 1913–2009
Evelyn Stefansson Nef, author, lecturer, patron of the arts, philanthropist, Arctic explorer, and psychotherapist, died December 10 at her home in Washington, DC. She was 96. Nef was the widow of John U. Nef, the University of Chicago economic historian who founded and chaired the Division’s famed Committee on Social Thought. Along with her husband, Nef was a generous and longtime supporter of the committee.
Born Evelyn Schwartz on July 24, 1913 in New York City, Nef married puppeteer Bil Baird at age 19 and performed as a principal in his marionette performances until their divorce in 1936. She sang at Romany Marie’s restaurant and was an active participant in the Greenwich Village cultural scene.
While working at the Gotham Book Mart, Nef was hired as a research assistant by the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, whom she married in 1941. They lived mainly in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she worked with him as a researcher and librarian of his extensive polar library until his death in 1962. She was active in the Polar Studies Program at Dartmouth College and taught its Arctic Seminar for two years. Her best-selling book, Here Is Alaska, was published by Scribner in 1943. During World War II, Nef and Stefansson worked as Arctic consultants for the Navy and War departments.
In 1963 Nef moved to Washington, DC, where she served as administrator of the American Sociological Association. The following year she married John Ulrich Nef, who had founded the Committee on Social Thought in 1941. Over the years, the committee has served as the intellectual home for many illustrious scholars, including Saul Bellow, Allan Bloom, PhB’49, AM’53, PhD’55, Edward Shils, Hannah Arendt, David Grene, Friedrich Hayek, J. M. Coetzee, Frank Knight, and Harold Rosenberg.
John Nef died in 1988. In recognition of his lifelong association with the Committee on Social Thought, as well as his widow’s continuing interest in and commitment to advancing its cause, it was renamed the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought in 2008.
“Evelyn Stefansson Nef was as memorable and wise a person as I have ever met,” said Robert B. Pippin, the committee’s current chair and the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in Social Thought, Philosophy, and the College. “A striking, formidable woman of great taste, intelligence, humor and warmth, she was also deeply committed to the ideals of the University of Chicago and the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought and was an extraordinarily generous patron of both.”
Nathan Keyfitz, PhD’52, 1913–2010
Nathan Keyfitz, a leader in the field of mathematical demography, pioneer in the application of mathematical tools to the study of population statistics, and a past board member and life trustee of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), died on April 6.
Born in Montreal, Keyfitz graduated from McGill University in 1934 with a degree in mathematics. Two years later, he began working as a research statistician for the Dominion Bureau of Statistics in Ottawa, where he remained for 36 years. He earned a doctorate in sociology from Chicago in 1952 and taught at the University from 1964–68. In 1972 he was appointed Andelot Professor of Sociology in the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences and of Demography in the Harvard School of Public Health. He remained in this post until 1983.
Norman Bradburn, Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, the Harris School, the Booth School of Business, and the College, recalled Keyfitz as a NORC board member: “Nathan was an active and supportive board member for over 20 years. He was always interested in the new things NORC was doing and made many helpful suggestions. Even after he retired and moved to Austria, he continued to follow what we were doing and to be an enthusiastic supporter.”
Alan C. Stockman, AM’76, PhD’78, 1951–2010
Alan Stockman, an alumnus of the University of Chicago Department of Economics and the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester, died on January 14 after a long battle with cancer. He was 58.
As a faculty member at the University of Rochester, Stockman made major contributions to the fields of international finance and macroeconomics, publishing seminal papers on exchange rates and international business cycles. In 1999 he authored Introduction to Economics, second edition (Dryden Press).
"He had a passion for ideas and a childlike pleasure in all things," said Steven Landsburg, AM’75, PhD’79 (Mathematics). A professor of economics at Rochester, Landsburg was a close friend of Stockman since their days as doctoral candidates at Chicago. "He had a sparkling, bubbling enthusiasm" that came through no matter what he was doing, Landsburg recalled.