In Memory of Alan G. Green
The following is drawn from a Eulogy to Alan G. Green delivered at St. George's Cathedral, Kingston, November 6, 2010 by Frank Lewis.
Alan was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He did his undergraduate work at Queen's University, graduating in 1957 as the medalist in Economics. He subsequently obtained a PhD from Harvard under the supervision of Simon Kuznets. He also spent a sabbatical there. Alan joined the Economics Department at Queen's in 1963 and remained there throughout his professional life. He retired in 1997, but, as a Professor Emeritus, remained active in teaching and research until his death.
Alan's research was driven by the need to understand the development of the Canadian economy. His work on the Great Depression and his estimates of regional income inequalities across Canada during the years after Confederation are still standard references. Early in his career, Alan turned his attention to immigration. He became a major figure, perhaps more accurately, the major figure in the economic history of immigration to Canada and Canadian immigration policy. For many years, both the Federal and Ontario governments sought his advice on questions of immigration policy implementation and reform. Alan continued to act in an advisory role for governments even after he was unable to travel to Toronto or Ottawa.
Research for Alan was often a family affair. Much of his early work was co-authored with his wife, Ann, who is an economist in her own right. Later, Alan worked with his son, David, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia. David and Alan, with research support from Ann, have written important papers on immigration, one of which received the 1995 Harry Johnson Prize for the best article to appear in the Canadian Journal of Economics that year.
Alan's contributions to the economic history community went far beyond his publications. For many economic historians across Canada, Alan will be remembered as a mentor, friend, and cheerleader. Since the 1960s, Canadian economic historians have assembled every eighteen months to communicate their ideas and encourage the work of young scholars. In the 1970s, these conferences were at serious risk of being discontinued. Alan, almost single-handedly, prevented that from happening by ensuring there was a venue, someone (often Alan himself) to put together a program, and adequate funding. Over the last 50 years, no-one has done more to foster and guide the study of economic history in Canada.
Years later I was in charge of getting the funding for our conference, and I put together a proposal to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. I followed their guidelines and it was a lot of work. The proposal ran something like 150 pages. I asked Alan how he got the funding. He said - "with a phone call." Admittedly it was a different time, but Alan was on good terms with someone at the Canada Council, and had persuaded them - Alan was remarkably persuasive when came to good causes - he persuaded them that our group was worth supporting. So every 18 months he phoned them up and funding would appear.
In the late 1980s, David Smith then Principal of Queen's asked Alan to chair a new working group that was given the name: "Library of the Twenty-First Century." The working group was to start the process that would lead to a new central library at Queen's. And fundamental to that process was acquiring the funding. Alan, and Ann as well, worked closely with representatives of the Stauffer Foundation, which ultimately provided the substantial funding that allowed the project to go ahead. Later Alan chaired the building committee, which selected the architect and project manager, and in addition to dealing with so many aspects of the construction, guided it through the difficult political process.
The Stauffer Library was completed in 1994, on time and under project. And the budget was met not by cutting corners. To the contrary, aspects of the building, particularly the exterior detailing, were built to standards that exceeded the original plan. The building has won architectural awards and looks as fresh today as it did when it first opened. Students at Queen's when asked about various aspects of the university always rate Stauffer Library as their favourite space on campus, and one has just to walk in the building to know why.
There is a plaque in the Fireside Reading Room of the Stauffer Library that
"In recognition of Alan G. Green, Guiding spirit, visionary and indefatigable champion of the Library of the 21st Century. His leadership inspired the many people who contributed their time, energy and talent to the building of the Joseph S. Stauffer Library."
Paul Wiens, at his retirement as chief librarian earlier this year, sent a note to Alan that says in part: "Your support, political acumen, and enthusiasm made it possible for us to build what was to become the highest ranked academic library in the country - and to have a wonderful time doing it. I will never forget the great meetings we had filled with laughter and optimism."
From the early 1970s to 1986 Alan Green was chairman of the Queen's Pension Board. That period included most importantly the time, the early 1970s, when the terms of the current pension plan were developed. Basically, there were two approaches to pension plans: defined benefit, where retirees were paid a pension which was some fraction of their earnings during their years before retirement; and defined contribution, where the pension was based on the contribution of the faculty (that was matched by the university) and the performance of the entire pension fund over time. While Alan was chair, it was decided to include that second feature. As a result of that decision and the record of the pension plan while Alan was chair and later, generations of Queen's retirees lived and are living, much more comfortable lives.
In 1998, with the help of David Smith, we organized a conference at Queen's to honour the contributions of Alan Green to economic history. Economic historians from across Canada, and a few from the U.S. as well, came to Queen's to present their research and acknowledge Alan's role.
For many years Alan suffered from peripheral neuropathy. The condition made it increasingly difficult for him, and then impossible for him, to walk. It affected his ability to write, and was debilitating in many other ways as well. Mercifully it did not affect Alan's mind - at all. Towards the end Alan was coming into the department two afternoons a week, Tuesday and Thursday; and he was going to a lunch at the University Club on Wednesday, a lunch that has been referred to for years as the "old man's lunch." The title becomes more apt every year.
Alan's office is down the hall from mine, and around the corner so I don't hear when he comes in. Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon after dropping Alan off, Ann would come by my office to say hello and maybe give me some news. Of course the real message was clear: Alan is expecting you. I must admit that there were days, when I was especially busy, that I grumbled a bit. But when I went into Alan's office and sat down to chat, he'd lift my spirits, he'd brighten my day, and I'd learn something.
In his memory, and on behalf of Alan's family, friends, colleagues, and students, the Department of Economics at Queen's University is establishing the Alan G. Green Memorial Fund to support research and teaching in economic history.
For information on the Alan G. Green Memorial Fund click here.