Baer, Werner (1931-2016) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Baer, Werner (1931-2016)

Historical Note: WERNER BAER (1931-2016)

Werner Baer was born to Dr. Richard and Grete Herz Baer, a Jewish family, in Offenbach am Main, Germany, on December 14, 1931. In 1937, the family escaped to Brussels, Belgium, eventually to France, and then Switzerland. Baer and his family immigrated to New York, USA, in 1945 and he went on to earn a BA (Queens College, 1953), Master's and PhD in Economics (1955 and 1958, both Harvard University) and then worked as assistant professor at Yale University (1961-1965). He was associate and full professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University (1965-1974) and at UIUC from 1974-2016. He also served as the Jorge Lemann Chair in Economics (2001-2013) and was instrumental in persuading Jorge Paulo Lemann to donate $14 million in 2009 to establish the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies at UIUC, of which Baer was the first director.

Having written a dissertation on Germany's economic recovery after World War II, Baer quickly moved from investigating Puerto Rico to focus on Brazil and Latin America. Studying industrialization of Latin America and Brazilian development economics, he focused on structuralism, fiscal policy, the debt crisis, inflation, import substitution industrialization, and privatization among other topics. In his fifties he began to focus increasingly on issues of democratization and political regimes, inequality and regional disparity, environmental policy, technological change, and trade agreements (Esfahani, 2016) for instance and began to publish extensively with current and former students in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

His most well-known books include Industrialization and Economic Development in Brazil (1965), The Development of the Brazilian Steel Industry (1970),and in particular The Brazilian Economy: Its Growth and Development / A Economia Brasileira (1979; published in English and then Portuguese), one of the most comprehensive studies of Brazil's economic development from the colonial period to Lula da Silva.

Until his death, Werner Baer was an outstanding teacher and drew enthusiastic crowds of undergraduates signing up for his introductory courses so that the university had to curtail enrollment from over 1000 to 750. He developed courses on Latin American international and developmental economics focusing on e.g. structuralism, fiscal policy, the debt crisis, inflation, or import substitution industrialization. Baer brought and mentored large cohorts of Latin American, including Brazilian, graduate students to UIUC. His graduates went on to hold leading positions in academia, economic institutions, and governments across the globe, and Baer and his former students formed a close international network of experts corresponding and collaborating with each other.

In the 1980s, Baer initiated and helped develop the Master of Science: Policy Economics (MSPE) to offer training in economic policy to government officials and others not wanting to commit to a PhD program (Esfahani, 2016). In the 1990s, he donated funds to the University of Illinois Foundation resources for research and education on Latin America.

Baer was a visiting professor at various Brazilian universities and served in academic and professional organizations. He was associate editor for Emerging Markets Review (2000-2016), member of the editorial boards of Luso-Brazilian Review  (1979-2016), World Development (1976-2016),and Revista Latinoamericana de Historia Economica y Social (1982-2016), the Ford Foundation (Program Advisor, Rio de Janiero, 1967-1976), and the Latin American Studies Association (Treasurer, 1986-1987). He received innumerous honors and awards including the National Order of the Southern Cross from the government of Brazil (1982), the Special Gold Medal Merit Award from Fundacao [cedilha cannot be displayed] Joaquim Nabuco (Social Science Research Institute), Recife, Brazil (August 1990), the Rio Branco Medal from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2000), the Special Professional Honor from the Brazilian Economics Association (ANPEC, December 2005), and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Brazilian Studies Association (2010).

Werner Baer died March 31, 2016.

reference: Esfahani, Hadi Salehi. "Obituary: Werner Baer (December 14, 1931 - March 31, 2016)," Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance. Vol. 62. November 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.qref.2016.08.004. [Werner Baer Papers, Box 1, Folder 6]

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