Alberto Alesina

Notes from his memorial service on Saturday, May 30.

“My only task was to read him his email once a day.”RA.

Shleifer. Alesina didn’t care about he theory, or the statistics– he cared about the truth. Note: thsi si contrary to the idea that we are too mathy in economics these days. He ws good as chair at rejejecting requests for endless reports. (Ask how!)

Jeremy Stein: He was the only member of our faculty who would squeeze my shoulder or touch my hand…. He was stuck because of bad weather on a glacier for 3 weeks near Mt. Blanc at 13,000 feet till the helicoter could land. “I finished 3 papers”, he said.

Someone: He cared more for stuents than anyone but Rudi Dornbusch.

Barro: I miss Gary Becker every day. Alberto will be like that.

Susan Alesina: “In few months, Alberto and I would have been married for twenty years.” He died in her arms. Hike on Sunday. He sent 15 emails in 10 minutes to Prof. Stantcheva. We’ll talk more on Monday, he said. “That Monday will not come.”

“Big Picture economics has lost its guiding light.” Romain Wacziarg, UCLA

This column was written in a rush and under stressful conditions. We apologise for omissions and errors. In the spirit of Alberto’s drafts and emails, this column may have typos.

“he was famous for his typos”
“When you are done with the final draft, I’ll add some typos.” Stefanie Stantcheva– can you translate this email from Alberto” (so many typos)

In his research, and in emails that were notoriously riddled with typos,

Adorava os e-mails com typos, o “don’t screw up” com bom humor, e tantas outras coisas que o faziam tão único além de seu legado acadêmico. Vai fazer muita falta.

Susan: To his Studetns: I am always ready to support and encourage you. He was going to climb Mt. McKinley this year with Romain. He estimated he had 10 more years for mountaineering, and he didn’t like it that covid-19 was taking away 10% of his time.

Hiking north of BOston. As we enard the end of the trail, we stopped for a moment. He suddenly collapsed and died in Susan’s arms.

…how he would grab your arm in excitement at some thought or story; how he would ruffle his own hair, eyes closed, as he thought about an idea you were asking him about; the emails filled with so many typos (so many more important things to think about than correcting damn typos!);the warmth with which he received the wife of a mere second- year PhD student, as she had just arrived in this new country.

I still remember when I was sitting in his office – I was his research assistant at the time – and as we were discussing a project, his assistant came in with his mail. It makes me feel very old, but one of the letters wa one of the letters was from the American Economic Review, on a submission of his. He glanced at it, and said something to the effect of “Screw them, I will send it somewhere else.”
I said, “It got rejected?”
And him, matter-of-factly,“ No, but they want us to split the paper, and this doesn’t make any sense.”
I remember thinking to myself that I wished someday I would be in a position where the AER would accept my paper and I would say “no, thanks, you’re asking me to make my paper worse…” For the record, I don’t know that he actually followed through on that reaction, but the lesson was indelibly etched onto my mind: that’s why we do what we do.