Paul MacAvoy GRD ’60, professor emeritus of management studies at Yale School of Management and a former dean of the school, died in Sarasota, Florida on Feb 24. He was 81.
MacAvoy — who is survived by his wife and two children — joined the SOM as a professor of organization and management in 1977, just one year after the school’s founding. He later served as the dean of the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester before returning to the SOM and leading the school from 1992 to 1994. MacAvoy’s wife, Katherine Manning MacAvoy, wrote in a letter to her husband’s close friends that he died peacefully with his family around him.
“In his economics work and in his life outside of the academy, Paul was committed to the idea of public service and to the view that economic thinking and evidence could and should be used to improve society,” SOM professor Sharon Oster wrote in an email to the school’s faculty and staff. “In his teaching, Paul exemplified the SOM mission of ‘educating leaders for business and society.’”
MacAvoy’s research focused on regulation, especially in the field of energy. Throughout his career, he wrote and co-authored numerous journal articles and 24 books. Notably, some in the field have dubbed MacAvoy the inventor of the term “voodoo economics,” used by then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush ’48 in 1977 to criticize Ronald Reagan’s economic policies.
MacAvoy formerly held professorships at the University of Chicago, the University of Rochester and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Oster, who served as dean of the SOM from 2008-2011, said she first met MacAvoy when they taught in the Yale Economics Department. She remembers MacAvoy as an “irrepressible presence” at Yale, direct and able to “skewer a speaker” with his humor. In her email to SOM faculty and staff, Oster recalled a story from Stan Garstka, an SOM professor who served as deputy dean under MacAvoy’s deanship, who remembered that MacAvoy always ended his meetings with a jaunty, “Have a good day.”
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, SOM senior associate dean for leadership programs, described MacAvoy as a “brilliant economist, loyal patriot and devoted colleague,” adding that MacAvoy welcomed all opinions on political and scholarly issues, ranging from energy and telecommunication policy to corporate governance.
“He was happiest when provoking playful but heated debates. He will be greatly missed,” Sonnenfeld said.
SOM professor Shyam Sunder said he worked with MacAvoy from 1999 until MacAvoy’s retirement in 2004. He remembered MacAvoy as a “perfect fit” for the image of a Yale professor: one with “deep knowledge, penetrating questions and frank friendliness with no sugarcoating of his judgments.”
MacAvoy also served on President Gerald Ford’s Council of Economic Advisors, and co-chaired the President’s Task Force on Regulatory Reform under the Ford administration. He also served as a member of the board of directors at various corporations, including the Alumax Corporation and the United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation.
A memorial service for MacAvoy will be held in Vermont.