Edith Stokey, 1923-2012

2 min read

The Harvard Kennedy School community is mourning the loss of Edith Stokey – economist, teacher, administrator, and “founding mother” of Harvard Kennedy School – who died during the evening of Jan. 16. She was 88.

Stokey was a true believer in the Kennedy School’s mission. Since being recruited by Richard Zeckhauser in 1971, Stokey served many years as secretary of the school and associate academic dean. She worked with many deans and professors, providing perspective and good counsel to each.

“Edith took me under her wing when I started as a struggling, new assistant professor teaching economics,” said Dean David T. Ellwood. “She was a remarkable mentor and friend. I still use her lessons every day.”

Stokey taught microeconomics as well as public sector operations research to many generations of Kennedy School students. She helped craft admissions and curriculum policy and in so many ways helped to shape many aspects of today’s curriculum.

“We constantly ask ourselves ‘What do we think a student needs in order to certify him for public service?’” she said. “The answer, unfortunately, is more than we can possibly do in one or two years. There is far too much to do.”

Though she officially retired in 2000, becoming lecturer in public policy, emerita, she continued to be deeply engaged with the school, retaining her office in the Littauer Building and keeping office hours for many years.

Her dry humor and keen intellect were admired and respected by faculty and students alike. Her “A Primer for Policy Analysis,” co-written with Richard Zeckhauser, is still used in schools of public policy throughout the country.