Henry W. Broude, the Philip G. Bartlett emeritus professor of economics and history, died of cancer on Monday. He was 81.

Broude, who served at Yale for four decades before retiring in the mid-1990s, was a discreet and influential consultant to the upper echelons of Yale’s administration. Originally appointed to teach economic history in 1954, Broude went on to work as the adviser to three different Yale presidents: Kingman Brewster, A. Bartlett Giamatti and Benno Schmidt.

His tenure as presidential adviser coincided with an eventful period of Yale’s history, including the beginning of coeducation, turbulent labor strikes and the 1970 Black Panthers trial.

Penelope Laurans, associate dean of Yale College, said Broude was an important figure for the University because he “did everything.”

“Most of his renown came from being adviser to three presidents in a row,” Laurans said. “He was such an important part of Yale history; he knew many things that other people don’t know about the [presidencies].”

A private and dedicated individual, Broude was known as the “eminence grise” of Yale and was famous for his discretion, Laurans said, as he never spoke to journalists or betrayed confidences.

“He wanted to be very confidential and have everybody trust him so they would know they could speak freely to him,” Laurans said. “They would trust him, and he could gather information to make best decisions for the president.”

Yale President Richard Levin agreed that Broude was a trustworthy person and a good friend and adviser.

“He advised not by sharing confidences but by asking probing questions,” Levin said. “His discretion and loyalty generated the great and affection and trust, not just of his presidents but of countless friends and colleagues.”

While Broude spent the bulk of his time at Yale working as a presidential adviser, he was also well known as a professor, a position he held from 1954 to 1963 and returned to in 1992. In his history of economics classes, Broude tried to connect the concepts of economics to the toil and triumph of the human condition. Laurans said he was well loved by undergraduates and graduates for being dedicated to them both during and after his seminars.

Nobel Prize winner Sidney Altman, Sterling professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chemistry, said Broude’s classes were very popular.

“I met him when I was dean of Yale College, and even after I stopped being dean we remained good friends,” Altman said. “We had lunch together often and he was always a charming and intelligent person with a good sense of humor.”

Broude was born in Milwaukee, Wis. on Feb. 23, 1925. He graduated from Antioch College and earned a doctorate from Harvard. His influential book, “Steel Decisions and the National Economy,” was published in 1963. The book deals with the impact of the steel industry on economic development and what this industry can do to contribute to national economic need.

Broude is survived by his wife, Josephine Broude.

Funeral services for Broude will be private, but donations in his memory can be made to Hospice in Branford, Conn., Yale-New Haven Hospital or the Community Foundation.