In Memory: Kenneth W. Dam

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In Memory: Kenneth W. Dam

Kenneth W. Dam, former provost of the University of Chicago and longtime professor who served as assistant secretary of the United States Departments of Treasury and State, died May 31. He was 89 years old.

Dam was elected to the American Law Institute in 1969, at the start of a career devoted to public policy issues, both as a practitioner and as a professor. He was assistant secretary, the second official, in the Treasury Department from 2001 to 2003 and in the State Department from 1982 to 1985. In 1973, he served as executive director of the Council on Economic Policy, a White House office. responsible for coordinating the domestic and international economic policy of the United States. From 1971 to 1973, he was Deputy Director for National Security and International Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. He began his career in Washington as a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Whittaker from 1957 to 1958.

Dam started at the University of Chicago in 1960. His college career has been spent entirely in Chicago (with time off) until today. From 1980 to 1982 he was provost of the University of Chicago. In a statement, Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago, said of Dam that he was “[t]the most impartial man of men, he brought to all this an admirable calm and exceptional judgment. I was very fortunate to have enjoyed two years of this partnership before Ken left to serve as George Shultz’s Under Secretary of State and pursue his ideal of public service.

Most of his academic work has been in law and economics, particularly as they relate to international issues. His publications include a number of books, the best known of which are The GATT: Law and the International Economic Organization; Economic policy beyond the headlines with George P. Shultz; and, more recently, The link between law and growth: rule of law and economic development, in which he explored the view that institutions, particularly the rule of law, play a critical role in determining which economies thrive and which lag behind. In this highly respected book, he defined the core concepts that make up the rule of law – property rights, contracts and enforcement – and analyzed the roles they play in land, equity and debt markets, including exploring whether they are new or better. legal institutions could help unlock the growth potential of the developing world.

Published in 2006, the questions explored in this seminal work remain not only relevant but even more important today. Norman L. Greene, ALI member of Schoeman Updike Kaufman & Gerber, who researched the book for an article on rule of law and economic development (published in the Denver Law Review), said, “Kenneth Dam has provided insightful insight into the impact of the rule of law on the economy. His book should be required reading for any policymaker undertaking legal and economic reform. We as a society would benefit from his insight now more than ever; he will be greatly missed.

Among his other activities, he was IBM’s vice president for legal and external relations from 1985 to 1992, and president and chief executive officer of United Way of America for a six-month period in 1992. He has a extensive experience as an umpire, including five years as a system umpire for professional basketball. He was an honorary member of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution and also a member of the board of directors of the Economic Development Committee and a member of the Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee. He was chairman of the German-American Academic Council and a member of the board of directors of a number of nonprofit institutions, including the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, he served for 13 years on the board of directors of Alcoa.

Dam is survived by his wife, Marcia Wachs; son, Eliot; daughter, Charlotte; and two grandchildren.

Read the full obituary in The New York Times.

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