Obituary: John Letiche

By Gérard Roland

John M Letiche (1918-2017) was Professor Emeritus of our department. Born in Uman in Ukraine, his family moved to Canada after the Russian revolution. He did his BA (1940) and MA (1941) at McGill University and PhD (1951) at the University of Chicago.  Jacob Viner and Theodore W. Schultz were influent in his intellectual development. During World War II he served at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York focused on the Soviet-American economic cooperation to win the war. He came to the University of California in 1946; a university he proudly served as lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor, full professor and as emeritus professor 'called back' to give courses until 1998. 

His research career spanned over sixty years. He authored and edited numerous books and wrote over two hundred articles and book chapters. His research covered many fields: international economics, development and macroeconomics. He had a very broad knowledge of the Russian economy, Africa and Asia. 

He had been a Guggenheim Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow (Council on Foreign Relations), Fulbright Fellow, and Fellow of the American Academy of Learned Societies. He received the Adam Smith Medal from the University of Verona. 

During his long career, he was also extremely active in policy research and advice, being a frequent consultant for international organizations, governments and non governmental organizations. 

He was the longtime chairman of the University's Committee on Regent's and Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Professors; whereby for decades he proudly encouraged scholars and artists from abroad to be visiting professors in Berkeley.

Letiche was a firm believer in the virtues of multinational cooperation above bilateralism or unilateralism; convinced that fairness and justice lead faster to peace and welfare  than the exercise of raw power. 

As a teacher, Letiche stressed the necessity for intelligent government regulation and balance between personal and social gain. He was passionate about the benefits to the American economy of positive economic and political development in Russia and Africa. He was well known among students for his broad knowledge, his wit, his warmth, kindness and generosity. His enthusiasm was contagious.

His much loved wife Emily Letiche died August 28, 2010; he is survived by his son Hugo and his wife Maria; three grandchildren Maurice, Mascha and Terrence, and five great-grandchildren. 

See also the obituary in the New York Times and UC Berkeley economics professor emeritus John Letiche dies at 98 in the Daily Californian.