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Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2005

Robert W. Campbell

John W. Ryan Award -- Founders Day 2005

Distinguished Professor Emeritus
Department of Economics
College of Arts and Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1961
A.B., University of Kansas, 1948; M.A., 1950
M.A., Harvard University, 1952; Ph.D., 1956

Robert Campbell

Print-Quality Photo

As a scholar of centrally planned economies, and especially that of the former Soviet Union, Campbell spent the better part of three decades becoming one of the foremost experts on Soviet-type economic systems. In fact, just a year after his appointment at IU, his book Soviet Economic Power: Its Structure, Growth, and Prospects had already become "required reading for all serious students of the Soviet Union," remembers Alex Rabinowitch, professor emeritus of history.

The fall of the Soviet Union, however, marked the end of an era and, obviously, Soviet economic power. As the world shifted to a new order, Campbell, too, now in his twenty-eighth year of service at IU, adapted. He tapped his expertise in Soviet economics to become a highly desired and internationally renowned consultant.

"Whereas some Soviet economic specialists sought to get rich by exploiting their prior knowledge of these economies, Bob has taken a workmanlike interest for the betterment of the populations of these countries," says James Millar, professor emeritus of economics and international affairs at George Washington University.

From 1989 to 1990, he worked with the U.S.-based Center for Privatization and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to advise the Russian government on how to convert formerly state-controlled property to privately owned cooperatives. In 1990, the parliament in Komi asked him to advise the government on their privatization policies.

Quickly -- and with the backing of two new books and numerous articles -- Campbell became a leading voice in the economics of transition. His 1991 book, The Centrally Planned Economies in Transition: Problems of the Semi-Reformed Economies, "was one of the best early works in the field," notes Michael Alexeev, professor of economics. Millar adds, "Every Soviet economic and transition specialist read these publications in the confident expectation that Bob would have something interesting to contribute."

In 1993, Campbell retired. That summer, he was in Kiev, Ukraine, with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). There, and for the next two years in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, he advised leaders on privatization and banking issues.

"In short, he has not used his retirement to play golf," notes David Ransel, director of the Russian and East European Institute and Robert F. Byrnes Professor of History. "He has been out in the world putting his knowledge to work for other people."

Campbell's contributions weren't limited to research. Starting in 1996, Campbell set out to help in the revival of economic education in the former USSR. Economists -- and the science of their discipline -- had nearly vanished during the Soviet period, a topic that informs Campbell's book-in-progress Lives of the Soviet Economists. In possibly his most lasting contribution, Campbell designed, organized, and directed a two-year master's degree in economics, the Economics Education and Research Project, for the University of Kiev-Mohyla Academy in Kiev, Ukraine. He currently serves as chair of the program's International Advisory Board.

"The program continues to thrive and has transformed economic thinking in Ukraine," says Anders Slund, director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "About 40 percent of the annual graduating class of about 50 students has gone on to graduate studies at good Western universities."

With four decades of economic scholarship, research, and advising to his credit, Campbell has published a dozen books and more than 50 articles. He has supplemented his work as a consultant with book reviews, entries in the Encyclopedia of Russian History, and two books-in-progress, the bio-bibliographic dictionary of economists and a study of the reform of the Russian telecommunications system.

He has also provided evaluations and advice for economics programs at the American University in Central Asia, the International Business School in Tashkent, the Kazakhstan Institute of Management and Economics, and the European University of St. Petersburg.

[A]s a regular member of the Indiana faculty for many decades, Bob Campbell served with great distinction," says Rabinowitch. "Since his 'retirement,' the direction of his work has shifted some, but it has not slowed. Now as before, he enhances IU's standing as a center of academic excellence throughout the world enormously."