Famed CU-Boulder Professor Reuben Zubrow Dies At 83

October 28, 1997

Reuben Zubrow, a legendary University of Colorado at Boulder professor who taught economics to more than 30,000 students, died of cancer at Boulder Community Hospital on Oct. 24 at the age of 83.

A campus memorial service is being scheduled.

Zubrow taught economics at CU-Boulder for 43 years and won every major teaching award offered by the university.

"It's a great loss for the University of Colorado," said CU President John C. Buechner. "Reuben Zubrow was a CU institution -- a truly larger than life figure both in and out of the classroom. He embodied all the best qualities of a college professor -- a first-rate scholar, a consummate classroom lecturer, and a devoted public servant whose work as an analyst was an asset to state and federal policy makers for over 30 years.

"He was also my friend and colleague, and I, along with the entire University community, will miss him very much," Buechner said.

Zubrow's former students went on to become leaders in higher education, business and government. They include Alice Rivlin, member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk.

Rivlin, former director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, credits a class she took from Zubrow when he was teaching at the University of Indiana in the summer of 1949 with convincing her to study economics.

“By the end of the course, I had decided I didn’t want to be a history major anymore. I wanted to learn more about economics. ... If I had not so accidentally wandered into that summer school course in 1949 I doubt very much that I would have become an economist,” she wrote.

Zubrow received the Boulder Faculty Assembly’s Teaching Excellence Award, the Regents' University Medal, the Robert L. Stearns Alumni Award, the University Teaching Recognition Award and the University of Colorado Thomas Jefferson Award.

"Reuben was a master teacher and scholar in public finance," said Larry Singell, dean of the College of Business and Administration. "Over his career, he taught thousands of students and there are several generations of his graduate students in important positions around the world.

"His research in public finance shaped a number of state and local tax policies. He was a natural mentor, leader and cherished friend."

Zubrow taught the basics of economics to so many students that his colleagues in the economics department were constantly running into them, said department chair Ann Carlos.

"I would go to a conference and someone would say, " 'I had Reuben for principles (of economics),’ “ she said.

"We all have stories like this -- every single one of us."

Zubrow specialized in the study of public finance and helped to revise the Colorado tax code under former Gov. Steve McNichols, who was governor from 1957 to 1963. He also conducted landmark studies on poverty, economic development and revenue reclamation.

"Our early interaction led me to appreciate Reuben's broad, catholic interests -- intellectual, cultural and physical," said Julius London, professor emeritus of astrophysical and planetary sciences. "I soon found that Reuben had an unusual knack of explaining complicated economic ideas in simple, non-trivial ways."

London and his wife were having lunch with a CU student one day when they learned that the student was taking macroeconomics from Zubrow.

"What do you think of the professor? we asked. 'Oh,' replied the student, 'he's hard, but damn good.' This described Reuben Zubrow," London said.

Zubrow served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1946 and was a gunnery officer in the North Atlantic and southern Europe.

He taught economics at Indiana University from 1946 to 1949 and joined the CU-Boulder faculty in 1949. He was a Fulbright Professor of Economics in Helsinki, Finland, in 1956-57.

Zubrow earned a Ph.D. in economics from Indiana University at Bloomington, a master's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in business education from Trenton State College in New Jersey.

He was born on May 17, 1914, in Philadelphia, the son of Harry and Cecilia Zubrow. He married Anne Winkler in Montreal on Sept. 17, 1938. She preceded him in death.

He is survived by a sister, Faye Fogelman of California; two sons, Ezra Zubrow of Eggertsville, N.Y., and Amos Zubrow of Boulder; two daughters, Luize Zubrow of McLean, Va., and Suzanne Zubrow Barkin of Denver; and four grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to the Zubrow Graduate Fellowship for the Teaching of Economics, Department of Economics, University of Colorado at Boulder, Campus Box 256, Boulder, CO, 80309.

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