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Hans P. Binswanger-Mkhize

Hans P. Binswanger-Mkhize, a distinguished leader of the agricultural economics profession worldwide, passed away in Pretoria, South Africa, on August 4, 2017. A scion of a prominent Swiss family that operated a psychiatric clinic as well as a farm, Hans chose agriculture as his area of focus, while his twin brother became a radiologist. In 1973 Hans received a PhD in Economics from North Carolina State University, and in the course of a brilliant career spanning over four decades he has made seminal research contributions on many themes of agricultural economics and rural development: technological change, behavior under risk, land policy and land reform, supply and demand of agricultural commodities, natural resource management, community driven development, agricultural mechanization, food policy, and more. His 1980 AJAE article, “Attitudes toward risk: Experimental measurement in rural India,” pioneered the use of field experiments in agricultural economics and is more heavily cited in the last decade than in its first 25 years after publication. His impact as a path-breaking researcher is evident in the 21,000 Google citations to his numerous publications. AAEA recognized these achievements by electing Hans as a Fellow in 1998, and two of his research articles received the prestigious “Quality of Research Discovery” award. The American Association for the Advancement of Sciences had similarly elected Hans as a Fellow in 2002.

Hans’ research accomplishments are paralleled by his contributions in the area of policy advice and rural development investments. In the course of his 24 years of service at the World Bank, his assignments included the management of units engaged in supporting rural development activities and investments in Latin America and Africa, as well as senior advisory roles. In performing these functions Hans excelled in translating the knowledge generated by his and others’ research into the formulation of agricultural development strategies, and the design of innovative and effective policies and interventions combating poverty and the spread of HIV-AIDS. After his retirement, Hans continued his advisory role to several key international organizations engaged in funding and implementing rural development, thereby having an impact on their strategies and activities.

At the personal level, Hans was a loyal friend and a good colleague to many individuals across the world. He mentored a number of younger colleagues who have subsequently become accomplished professionals. In 2002, he founded and endowed an NGO in Zimbabwe, the Community and Enterprise Development Against Stigma (CEDAS), that supported about 100 mostly HIV-positive children and their families by providing education, supplemental health care, and counseling. His daughter Ingrid aptly noted “My father had a kind and generous spirit, an amazing mind and passion for helping people, and was a deeply loving person who often made us laugh. I will miss him deeply, as I know will his family, colleagues, and friends in numerous countries throughout the world."

            ~Gershon Feder

Truman Frederick Graf

Truman Frederick Graf, a well-known Madisonian and internationally known Agricultural Economist, passed away on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at Attic Angel. He was born to Herbert and Rose Sell Graf on Sept. 18, 1922, in New Holstein, Wis., and grew up on a small dairy farm. Truman’s mother, Rose, died from injuries in a traffic accident when Truman was four, resulting in Truman being raised by his father and aunts.

Electrification grids had not reached that part of Wisconsin when he was a child. The electricity came from running a generator, which could only power a few light bulbs. Education was attending a one room country school for his first eight grades. Getting to school in the 1920’s often involved joining classmates walking barefoot, sometimes through thistle fields and over gravel roads over the two miles. He graduated with high honors and again with honors from New Holstein High School. That led to receiving two scholarships, which allowed him to enroll at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

While an undergraduate, World War II resulted in him leaving his studies and enlisting in the U.S. Navy Air Corps, proudly earning his “Wings of Gold” and becoming commissioned a Navy Ensign. He flew a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver Dive Bomber, the largest single engine airplane flying at the time. He continued flying in the Navy Reserve for a couple of years after the War ended, then transferred into Naval Intelligence, after obtaining top secret clearance. He continued serving in the Reserves, in Naval Intelligence, throughout his professional career, retiring from the Navy as a Full Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve after 30 years of service.

After leaving full time Navy service when the War ended, Truman returned to studies at the University of Wisconsin, earning a BS, MS, and PhD in Agricultural Economics. While completing his studies he met Sylvia Thompson and invited her to a date for Homecoming to the Student Union where Tommy Dorsey was playing. They were married less than a year later. Their happiness continued with the birth of Eric, Siri (Bill) Fraser, Peter (Barb) and their children Sara and Christopher, and great-grandchildren Maren and Viggo.

Following graduation, he worked in Madison for several years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture doing research. He then was offered, and accepted, a position on the faculty as a Professor of Agricultural Economics with responsibilities for teaching, research, and U.W. Extension.

His areas of expertise were: dairy policy; dairy marketing; federal milk orders; dairy promotion; transportation; international trade; and dairy pricing such as butterfat, nonfat solids, components, protein and whey. Over the course of his career as a faculty member, Truman taught many classes and authored several hundred publications. He also worked extensively with local, state and national farm and dairy industry groups. His counsel was sought by various Governors, U.S. Senators and Members of Congress, and other government officials on programs to increase dairy and agricultural profitability. Among many professional awards he received were: “Best Published Research Paper” from the American Agricultural Economics Association; first educator to be named World Dairy Expo Man of the Year; Wisconsin Cooperative Leader Award; the National Dairy Shrine Award; UWEX Distinguished Service Award; Wisconsin Federation of Coops Cooperative Builder Award; and the Uhlman award from the Chicago Board of Trade, among other honors.

Following a 35 year career as a Professor at the UW, Truman stepped back from active duties and was awarded Emeritus Professor Status. Throughout his professional career at the UW, he never accepted outside consulting fees for his extension and research findings as he believed his opinions were not for sale while he was serving the people of Wisconsin as a faculty member. Shortly before retirement, the Department of Agricultural Economics moved into a new building on the Madison Campus. A fund raising effort was launched to make some improvements to the building. A measure of respect for Truman within the dairy industry was evidenced when dairy firms and cooperatives he had worked with donated sums in excess of six figures in Truman’s name for the renovation, honoring his service.

“My goal in life has been to make a contribution to society which will long outlast my stay on earth. I have attempted to do this through teaching, research, and public service work in my professional field, agricultural economics, and also as a “good citizen” in non-professional related volunteer work. My philosophy of life is that we all owe society far more than it owes us, and I hope to make at least a partial payment on my share of the debt.”—Truman Graf, 1985

Truman is survived by Sylvia, his wife of 70 years; their children, Eric, Siri (Bill) and Peter (Barb); grandchildren, Sara and Christopher; and great-grandchildren, Maren and Viggo Masters