CMU Economics Professor Was 'A Natural'

By Vondas, Jerry | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

CMU Economics Professor Was 'A Natural'


Vondas, Jerry, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Robert Strauss gladly left his tenured associate professorship at the University of North Carolina in 1979 to join Otto "Toby" Davis at the School of Urban and Public Affairs at Carnegie Mellon University.

Mr. Davis, who studied under Nobel laureate James Buchanan, was a renowned expert in welfare economics and the effects of regulation on economic activities.

"I greatly admired him," said Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at the H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at CMU. "And the fact that I could be a new disciple and learn from him brought me to Pittsburgh."

Mr. Davis, of Wilkins, the W.W. Cooper Professor of Economics and Public Policy and University Professor at CMU, died of liver failure on Tuesday, May 9, 2006, at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. He was 72.

"In baseball, they use the word 'a natural' in describing an exceptional player. Toby was a natural when it came to economics," Strauss said. "He could take a complicated subject, simplify and focus it, and get to the core of things."

Born and raised on a farm in Darlington, S.C., Mr. Davis was one of three children of Otto and Pauline Anderson Davis.

Because his father was named Otto, his family decided to call him Toby.

"The name stuck," said his son, Craig Davis.

Mr. Davis graduated from St. John's High School in Darlington in 1952, received his undergraduate degree in economics from Wofford College in Spartansburg, S.C., in 1956, and earned his master's degree and doctorate in economics from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1960.

Mr. Davis joined the faculty of the CMU Graduate School of Industrial Administration in 1960, and in the ensuing years, in addition to co-founding the School of Urban and Public Affairs, he held joint appointments in the social and decision sciences department and the engineering and public policy department.

He was instrumental in establishing several scholarly societies, including the Association for Public Policy and Management and the Public Choice Society, serving as president of each. …

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